There was once a time when my mother thought
she had a choice, so I was 선호, in hanja, leader.
I thought it was this simple, my name carrying me
to each lover, unchained. I met J and let my limbs loosen
as we danced in sprinkler water. Softened,
he cradled my skin until it bruised, my hands unable
to write it—my name, my unabashed—and so my mother
changed the last character: 선아, age twenty, rounded hangul:
supple and naive. My name, newborn, tripping
into a lover’s room as I stay when they say Stay.
선아 moving to him like a lucky omen. So gullible
to language. When she returned to Seoul my mother changed
to the ninth most common name, 민재. She exchanged
lives with others, handpicking the restaurant owner 민재,
the dancer 민재, the 민재’s whose only option was remain.
We—I thought 선아 could do it. My wrists reaching. For what.
My nascent name calls out to every lover who nearly
killed me. 민재 begins to forget Korean words.
한. Translation: suffering. 귤. Translation: clementine.
시민. Translation: citizen. 선호. Translation:
Sun Paik is a former Levinthal Scholar and recipient of the Chappell-Lougee Scholarship. She currently spends her time between Seoul and San Francisco.