Daniel Yim

How to write a Korean poem

without too much blood. In harabeoji’s garden,
          I find everything divided: the earth unstitched,

all the flowers kneeling. Every wrinkle on his
          palms a memory outliving its own skin. He speaks

slowly, braiding each word into a water lily: this
          moment at the edge of the Yangjaecheon where

the mouthfuls of hardtack he tosses to the carp
          crumble into teeth. Tracing the shoreline, though

this myth of red jaws opened long before the war’s
          end. Before this blooming thirst. On Sundays, he leaves

windflowers at the altar, gardening this white
          smoke into prayer—everything paler in the

lamplight. Mid-hymn, his mouth blossoms
          into a flock of tongues, shorn of its history. Nothing

left to bury, he tells me. Not on this side of the glass,
          where this language of petals can only wither into

elegy. Over the phone, his accent splinters, never
          learning to settle in seawater — those deboned

syllables soft, slick with oil. On the page,
          a translation at war with itself. In every life, we

flee south, watch flowers emerge from bullets,
          dye the Nakdong red with bleeding-hearts. I wait

to tell him I write about the war. Because in this
          parable of borders, fragility is only a body bent

into italics, a bloodline tangled in the spokes
          of a bicycle. Just this wilting metaphor, its sagging

limbs. Something to whiten the page. In winter,
          harabeoji plants camellias. I try to remember the

way the autumn leaves, how each season unthreads
          itself into the next. In the greenhouse, I measure time

in dying houseplants, meaning for every bruised
          peony I leave on the doorstep a sentence splits,

rootless. Forgive me for all this blood, for this
          red-choked silt—for the ghosts rising from the

flowerbed despite the way the folktale ends.
          Nine-tailed and starving. How easily the spade

slips out of my hand—this, too, a way to hunger
for an origin.








Daniel Yim is a writer from San Jose, CA. His work has been recognized by the Pulitzer Center, YoungArts, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. An alumnus of the Kenyon Review Young Writers’ Workshop, the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, and the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship, he is also an avid cellist.