This is summer closing: sweet aloe drink and linger.

Plexiglass floors suspended over the wreckage

of some ancient neighborhood in what is now Mapo.


An archaeological treasure, to be so preserved despite fire.

Say one spark off a coal briquette kisses what it should not,

an arm of dried wood, the lattice hem of a girl’s dress,


and hypothetically we are all engulfed in flames.

Halmeoni kisses me temple to temple, eager to introduce me

to her country but like a woman of my blood,


she leads me back to ruin. And here is where the fire

could not be contained. See where the frameworks still stand.

These were homes. These were not excavated until after war.


Thirty years after her war, she left this country. Thirty years

after that, she is returned to nothing familiar but the tongue

stunned with striving. But unmaking is what she knows,


and so can best convey: The fire, she reads, the fire.

The plexiglass beckons evening by illuminating what is left,

the landmark placards commemorate the blaze


and all it failed to spare: livelihoods, lives, the bodies

which vesseled them, shimmering their vanish in white-light

relief. It is all very glamorous the way only memorials


for tragedy can be. Above us, locusts make themselves known,

blow open August with their stutter and trill. A student lights up a smoke,

taps ash over the excavated remains of a city forever


ablaze in history, and I remember across the sea, my home California‘s

dry brush is burning. On television, we hear threats of whole countries

blazed to pre-conception and if the fires we tend end up taking us all


who will write our eulogy? So much is changed I can hardly bear it,

Halmeoni says as the day yields. Where there was nothing,

a mall. Where there were shanties, a bar. Not far from here,


I fell in love with a cigar factory heir. The building was

gray and huge. It covered everything in soot. Even our hair,

even the trees. We’d sit under the wax-wing leaves


and listen to the cigar rolling machines In dreams, I can see them

adoring the day closed with their hands of ceaseless light.

They could have been anyone. Dear lovers, dear moment in time,


inevitably you will burn, as all living things do.


But there are things even fire fails to eviscerate: morning’s onset,

the suggestion of a woman unearthed among ash, all her lived loves

large or small, sewn within the hems of a charred girl’s dress.



For Now, Nothing Burns


               “Stir the root life of a withered people. Call them from their houses, and teach them to dream"

                             -Cane, Jean Toomer



                             Say our bodies can forget    

                                          the ash

Say jet plane thunder is merely a reminder

                          to wake

             The people strewn around us are not

people                              only reservoirs

                                                      pumping into one great vein

What’s spilled is a river

                          we must follow

Safety is not far

                                                                  stand up

              The dust plumes can block light

                                        but not the morning’s arrival

Sister                  I believe we will never die


                                        the bright lamps of our whole bodies   


                                Call it sanctuary

                   call us lotus       

                                we bloom                                    in rot                 

               rise bog-bodied

                                                     into tomorrow

When we get there

                                                                         I will beg for rations

             feed you syrup

                                                     spoonful after sweet

                           mournful spoonful

Jihyun Yun is a Korean-American poet from California, currently residing in South Korea on a Fulbright grant. She received her MFA from New York University in 2016. Her work can be found in Narrative, Fugue, River Styx and elsewhere.