Starting

Starting from the black-haired boy

who ate his chips beneath the dryness

of the Californian evenings,

Starting from the house in whose backyard

he hit pitches of the foam ball

thrown to him by brother after windup

like they saw on TV,

Starting from the summer days

with Mom away for unknown reasons,

Starting from the way we knew

it was not normal, the way

they looked at us, the ones who came

to care for us in lieu of her,

Starting from the way it felt to move

to Shanghai where they shared our skin,

on TVs, signs, the ones who ruled,

Starting from the way we lived

among a language with its swinging

rhythms we soon spoke,

Starting from the way we’d climb

school gates to roam within the city,

see the world up-close,

Starting from the awkward dances

held on campus miles from city,

Starting from the hours we lost in games

on screens whose blue-light

made us blind,

Starting from the midnight talks

that we were old enough to hear,

Starting from the way they left us

to the air-conditioned empty of the flat,

Starting from these moments to

the ones that followed,

From these moments to the way

it felt when we returned

to harshness of our country,

To the way it felt to be

a backdrop for a blue-eyed country,

To the way it felt when even then,

we tried to make something of ourselves,

To the way we thought that if we

studied harder we could think ourselves

into a better placing,

To the way we thought the leaf-strewn

streets of Rockville could be ours,

To the way we thought that getting high

by creeks of forests was the way

to reach ourselves,

To the way we threw ourselves into our

drinks and parties where we ate pills

that brought us hours of okay,

To the way our lives mismatched with

thoughts that brought us greater

distance from each other,

To the way we’d smoke in quiet

under dusky skies,

the flush from drinks in our cheeks,

To the way we’d cry more

than we used to, more that

brought us dark moods in the

middle of the day,

To the way we’d drive well

after closing, when the streets

were as empty as we felt,

After parties with the promise

of their starts and breaking

it the way the light fell harshly

at last call,

After evenings snorting blow

off dressers in a bedroom

beyond whose door the party

pulsed,

After mornings when we woke up,

groggy, fogged the living

we had made vague,

After meeting on one evening

something that would change

the way the mornings felt,

After finding that the days

could be filled with standing

by the rivers as the sunset

lit them for our eyes,

After finding that the hikes

up Rockies left us breathless

at the top with views of futures,

After finding that our views were different

and the plates were smashed against the floor,

After finding that we hid more

and then some from each other,

After finding that the tears would

come in bedrooms, kitchens, or at work,

After finding that the ruptures

we found torture could be lived with

even while we typed away at work,

After finding that the wounds closed

while we walked down shaded paths thru gardens,

After finding for a moment

we were back to where we started,

From these cycles we departed.


Headshot of Won Lee

Won Lee is a Corean-American poet and MFA student at the University of Oregon. His writing has appeared in Action, Spectacle and Airplane Reading. He is currently at work on a wind sequence.