Tinderbox is fundraising to support our next ten years. Check out our GoFundMe! Donations will be matched up to our $1,000 goal.

Fish Tale

What are you?

i am mostly water. sun beams
bounce from your carbon-based body to mine,
and back to your eyes.

What are you?

i am what my parents wanted.

Where are you [really] from?

i come from the ocean. slicked the brine off my gills.
with opened mouth i sputtered
a babbling brook.

How do you speak like us?

gifted with knives point first, i accepted all
your offerings, unsure how to be ungrateful.
i thought my scales would be hard, all full of steel,
untouchable to any skin, even kin.

How do you speak like us?

jonah was swallowed by a whale.
errors make happy accidents,
like a hook in the mouth,
like

Who are you? i am strange english i am strange english

Who are you?

i am broken english, my halmeoni said.

What do you want?

i want my parents want, what child doesn’t?
buttoned into white coats, a prized fishling.

do you want?

i was born to survive. living, a luxury for later.
for now, i practice permission.
to be mine.


Michael Sun (he/him) is a Korean American poet from the suburbs of Chicago. His poems appear or are forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, Honey Literary, and Hooligan Magazine among others. He is a resident physician at the University of Chicago and tweets with @michaelsun_md.