(CW: Suicidal Ideation)
You prod your sleeping body with a stick. Do something, you groan. It rolls about in
non-response. After ten minutes of nothing, you pour bori-cha into a porcelain cup.
Then onto your face. It melts into your eyes and combusts. Your hair catches fire, then
the bed. Firefighters arrive at the scene in under fifteen minutes but it is too late: you
are only ashes with nothing to explain. A burnt tea-kettle is next to your not-body.
Nobody knows how this happened but everyone is so glad to have met you. Everyone
is so glad.
The difficulty of choosing oneself. Of choosing one self. As you wash your face in the
bathroom, you avoid eye-contact with your self. One of your contacts falls out while
you think about lunch and now you can only see how you appear to everyone else.
You start sweating in Starbucks while thinking about rope. The woman sitting across
from you glances at you, half-concerned, then returns to their MCAT book. By the
time you realize you are dreaming you are already there. Three hundred eyes are
watching you. Below are the usual acts: a half-naked contortionist wrestling with a
tiger; a choir singing Arirang and America (My Country, Tis of Thee) simultaneously.
For whatever reason, you are not afraid of falling. You are more afraid of the rope’s
texture. So you leave it.
or wrapped in
You turn off your ceiling fan and prepare to hang yourself. Nothing romantic about a
belt. Why can’t you do it.
he hangs in
there, that which
looped in space
You vaguely remember your kindergarten teacher helping you read simple sentences
at a round table while other children played. You stared at the letters, feeling them out
in your mouth before speaking. She encouraged you with applause every time you
completed a page. When did you start processing in English?
in your room
join at hip
The I a mandible that breaks down in front of a mirror. Chunks crash onto hardwood
floor. Unspoken language slackens in the crevices. And within, an expanding hedge-
maze that morphs the brain. The I loses itself. And is not surprised that you are here.
Hope blends with abject and no moment is ever sudden again. At the very least, the
excruciating pace of torsojerkflounder is a bit more palatable. Cold sweat everywhere.
o, hell, o
he lll- low
ers his form
if burned whole
if full bloom
y eves of
“at least he
You face the mirror and pull at your lips, stick out your tongue, and arrange your arms
into unbelievable angles. You choose to wear your American self over your Korean
self. At the very least, you bow with respect. You rub your belly. Today, you will find
the definition of live:
You stutter toward light. It coaxes you along in the am, brushing against the pages of
your books. The English is soldered into their spines. You are your books, your
teachers. The English is soldered into your spine. You sold your body to strangers for
words, you tell yourself in advance. Your body to strangers. You become stranger.
You stranger to your body. You are for words. You tell strangers in your body: advance
yourself; become. You are so old. You are sold—
One day you will be you and nothing more and that will be okay. You will be ___.
Joseph Gunho Jang is an American poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Blood Orange Review, The Margins, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. Jang’s manuscript was a finalist for the 2020 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, judged by Li-Young Lee.
*Joseph’s chapbook manuscript, Which, was selected by Jos Charles as the runner-up of this year’s Chapbook Contest.