When my parents are buried, they will be embalmed in incense water, prepared
to enter the earth as a quiet mound of dirt. I flew above the empty slots where they
will lay, laughed, said to them, they looked like ant hills. The smallness never ceases
to amaze me. How, in the distance, it becomes habit to inhale. What else
could I have expected out of myself, my slow hands letting prayer seep through
their fingers like rainwater, the hundred day incantation of my name rotting
like persimmons in my mother’s backyard, where, half a life ago, she learned
to play piano and had her first suitor linger for months at the stoop of her porch.
I keep having the same dream where I am back in Joseon, the hem of my hanbok
grazing the haggard roads, my mouth full of sool-ttuck, listening to a street performer,
gayageum heavy on her lap as she sings about the dokkaebi, goblin, falling in love
with a mortal. Somehow, I know this song.
My wrists, they move as if they have known it forever.
Sun Paik is a former Levinthal Scholar and recipient of the Chappell-Lougee Scholarship. She currently spends her time between Seoul and San Francisco.