Let’s not die today or the day after.
If you prefer, refer to our membership rules:
You aren’t here against your wishes, don’t throw
A hissy fit. Let us kiss you a little bit. But flip
Flop on this there is no coming back.
Sisyphus, you sissy, your left foot is a pus-oozing
Gangrenous disaster. Is there something down below
You don’t want smashed? I climbed straight up
A levee once for fun, didn’t make it all the way
Up to the path on the top and broke
My ankle falling. Father, you hated
We had to find an emergency room so late,
A vacation in an unfamiliar city ruined,
Screaming stupidity into the right
Ear of a late-night pharmacist, accusing
Him of pushing hallucinogenic painkillers.
Glued to your wife who stopped moving,
I stopped talking hiding in the backseat
And slowed my whimper to the steady beat
Of the dark waves lapping, my belly filled
With raw fish you had forced on me.
“I’ll get you a new toy if you can stomach it.”
I threw up on your head instead.
If I had made it over the levee, perhaps
No divorce for you; I wouldn’t have come to a
Strange country with a mother searching a fresh
Start. Perhaps the fish wasn’t fresh that night.
I never made it over the levee.
Today I walked with friends by the shores
Of a lake and the path greening again
Led directly to the top of an embankment
Dividing the waters risen high after heavy rain
And one side was calm and the other
Still rippling to the strong wind and I
Climbed up a mound jutting out on the side
Of the levee as the sun was setting and I
Did not listen to my friends yelling
Telling me it was dangerous. I needed the air.
My weak ankle always lower than the other,
A fresh thing in my stomach flopping.
The view was not so much different,
Just more of the same, but definitely more.
Jack Jung is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His translations of Korean poet Yi Sang’s poetry and prose are published in Yi Sang: Selected Works by Wave Books. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Davidson College.