Out of albumen and blood, out of amniotic brine,
placental sea-swell, trough, salt-spume and foam,
 
you came to us infinitely far, little traveler, from the other world—
skull-keel and heel-hull socketed to pelvic cradle,
 
rib-rigging, bowsprit-spine, driftwood-bone,
the ship of you scudding wave after wave of what-might-never-have-been.
 
Memory, stay faithful to this moment, which will never return: 
may I never forget when we first saw you, there on the other side,
 
still fish-gilled, water-lunged,
your eelgrass-hair and seahorse-skeleton floating in the sonogram screen
 
like a ghost from tomorrow,
moth-breath quicksilver in snowy pixels, fists in sleep-twitch,
 
not yet alive but not not, 
you who were and were not,
 
a thunder of bloodbeats sutured in green jags on the ultrasound machine
like hooves galloping from eternity to time,
 
feet kicking bone-creel and womb-wall,
while we waited, never to waken in that world again, 
 
the world without the shadow of your death,
with no you or not-you, no is or was or might-have-been or never-were.
 
May I never forget when we first saw you in your afterlife
which was life,
 
soaked otter-pelt and swan-down crowning,
face cauled in blood and mucus-mud, eyes soldered shut,
 
wet birth-cord rooting you from one world to the next,
you who might not have lived, might never have been born, like all the others,
 
as we looked at every pock and crook of your skull,
every clotted hair, seal-slick on your blue-black scalp,
 
every lash, every nail, every pore, every breath,
with so much wonder that wonder is not the word—

More by Suji Kwock Kim

Monologue for an Onion

I don't mean to make you cry.
I mean nothing, but this has not kept you
From peeling away my body, layer by layer,

The tears clouding your eyes as the table fills
With husks, cut flesh, all the debris of pursuit.
Poor deluded human: you seek my heart.

Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine
Lies another skin: I am pure onion--pure union
Of outside and in, surface and secret core.

Look at you, chopping and weeping. Idiot.
Is this the way you go through life, your mind
A stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth,

Of lasting union--slashing away skin after skin
From things, ruin and tears your only signs
Of progress? Enough is enough.

You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed
Through veils. How else can it be seen?
How will you rip away the veil of the eye, the veil

That you are, you who want to grasp the heart
Of things, hungry to know where meaning
Lies. Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,

Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one
In pieces. Whatever you meant to love, in meaning to
You changed yourself: you are not who you are,

Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade
Of fresh desire, the ground sown with abandoned skins.
And at your inmost circle, what? A core that is

Not one. Poor fool, you are divided at the heart,
Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,
A heart that will one day beat you to death.

Related Poems

Birth

_____

I was locked into a single seed, my future fathoming.
I was matter underwater and a sheer hoping,
when I latched to earth, a first withered bloom.
A sonic wonder, I sang about the future.
I was master of the oxen pulling me toward dawn,
an existence first in death, a state of stillness
before beginning, a middle earth of rain.
I wore many masks until the right one fit.
Then the storm passed and I was wakened by water.

Morality

I had stolen through the back door, eyed
two loaves of bread. In the life before this one,
I had seen the window, a greater reflection,
yeast in the tin rising fast. My wanting grew.
How does desire trump that? Perhaps desire
is what we know best when the heart
is listless but listening. I memorized my history
which was nothing short of gleaming disasters
repeated, just for me.

History

I fell into a patch of green which was earth's matter
and fell some more. I am a boy and found myself
between war and my own luck, startled myself
in goodness and in haste, made a fire and got to cooking.
Man: the most tender and incessant beast.
A flawed danger but no less beautiful. A prairie
where I walk for the first time, where I am the theory
of origin: my brain barks in the heat, my legs buckle
in the initial step, then a slow certainty, an engine
of progress. My ankles turn clockwise in the soil,
loosening root and worm, shaking free
from the tangle and what held me there.

Mambo Sun

I was never burned by anything that could touch me
and I sat in the imagined throne with spoonsful of red sugar
tasting the years ahead of me, wondering of the origin
of my mother. I think she is flame and quick step, glee
and ignition. I saw her hands once in a flash flood
pulling me awake, several claps and then I came alive
rising through the underbrush and cadence rumble,
then I breathed and found god's bone, cracked in pieces
in my throat and my own voice fused to answer back.