Two Poems By Yejin Suh

Yejin’s work dives into the complexities of self-conflict and observes the world with tremendous attention to detail. These two poems layer profound imagery and tone to convey personal and family struggles.

GUERRILLA

Each cut: a strategic battleground placement. Trenches
in the war. Burrowed and deep, one after another—
this one dedicated to myself, this one to her, this one
to the strange and terrible shapes battered within me,
fingers pressing out from inside my body, purpling. This one
nicked recklessly in the first wave, and this one
carved painstakingly over miles and miles of stalemated time:
hunched over in the bathroom sink, a body so disgustingly
unmarred; a smooth expanse of skin waiting for war. Blood bubbling
in tender formation. I told her it was a rite of passage,
that she might’ve done it too, once, when she was young,
or at least with the cradled thought in her head. I interrogated myself
over and over again on sanguinary doctrine. The plan:
drown the enemy in crimson grooves. The plan:
hurl Molotovs down the gaping line. The plan:
deploy a daisy cutter to flatten forests, the arteries
of oak roots and wildflowers, stinging. I can wince now
at the thought of a blade ripping through me, at the burning
and scabbing that follows. Back then, I never
winced. Back then, I wanted to cut down to the bone.

 

JOHN F KENNEDY ATE MY AUNT

Musica Universalis is the Music of the Spheres.
The religiosity of Ancient Greek scholars
towards the dance of celestial bodies
overlapping, echoing, spinning music,
a concentric clockwork of proportion too divine
for human ears. When I listen closely,
I can never hear it, but I can hear
stellar revels, an Earth’s sorrows, lost things.
I confess to watching a single burgeoning star
in the sky and accepting its fate. I confess
to losing parts of my body in hungry travelers’
nooks, airports. I remember my father a digit splayed
across the intersection where we parted ways,
his polo like crimson crumbling under my fingers,
his flesh near mine but already a decrepit ghost lingering
within old photographs. This quiet melody
halted when he cleared the gate: Boarding flight number
zero seven three octaves is there a resonance
for an indefinite loss? A code? If I had looked
more closely, pressed my ear upon the sounds, might
I have cracked it? Beat at it with all the vigor
of a wartime cryptanalyst matching letter
to number to note, barricaded beyond reasoning
and resistance? I couldn’t look him in the eyes,
not until I knew the signs and the motions to keep
someone in a static breadth of land, to say one thing
and mean another. I’ll see you in Paris, he said, in London,
up the Oratory. Years and years later, we’ll meet
as strangers, inconspicuous, humdrum visitors,
back to back aside the Mona Lisa, on opposite sides
of a park bench. Like the movies, except we won’t
be listening for a key to save the world, just
each other. A cipher simpler than Morse
and more grueling than Voynich to unravel
is the beating of a human heart to another
that hums a chord of its own, silent to everyone
but the closest. Now I can barely remember
if it was substitution or transposition, in his
language or mine, polyalphabetic or mono. I lost
the exacts, but a human head can save a tune for
centuries: LaGuardia consumed my father.
John F Kennedy ate my aunt. Newark Liberty
swallowed my grandmother whole and I lost all
of them to white forsythia and volcanic islands ringing
the Yellow Sea. I wait for them to signal me,
though their lights dim across oceans. I know,
when my father knocks back a constellation or two
of intoxicating night air, he is drunk on galaxies
on the other side of the world. But I think,
in the quiet of my nights and his early dawns,
we pause for poetic order—
we hear the Music of the Spheres.

 

Yejin Suh is a junior in New Jersey. She has been recognized by the Scholastic Awards. Her work appears in Crashtest Magazine, The Eunoia Review, and Just Poetry.

Art by Florence Lui