Joon Song graduated from UC Berkeley in 2006 with degrees in
political science and public health. He has previously been published
in the Berkeley Poetry Review, The Daily Californian, and read his
work in UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems series (hosted by Robert Hass).


We are making dinner. It is growing dark outside.
Autumn makes herself known on our countertops:
persimmons, quince, pomegranates.

There are 613 seeds in every pomegranate, you say,
which for the Jews represents righteousness.

Between your words you eat them one by one.
All I can see are paper skins rouged with vermilion
and, beneath that, the red fruits heavy with juice.

In Rome, I say, priests would sacrifice
a hare or a dove and examine the entrails
in a form of divination.

You separate the chicken,
the knife flashing as thighs come apart
and breasts and legs fall into the pot.
The gizzard, liver, and heart
you set on the board smiling,
in light of what I had said.

The meal takes a long time to prepare.
It seems we are nowhere near done.
There is late corn, too. I strip off the husks
and gaze into the patterns of silk.

Long-Distance Phone Call

her pregnancy was a hard one.
in korea they believed that a woman should work
even as a world was growing within her.

when the time came, they summoned the county doctor,
a man who might not have had the marks to go to seoul
and stayed behind instead in this provincial town.

the baby, he clung inside of her
and as she screamed in pain the doctor
made a cut, and with his hands grabbed the sides of flesh
and pulled them apart.

my mom is on the phone with her now.
she is eighty. the old scar throbs and aches.
the boy is a doctor in the city and visits rarely -
his marks were good enough to get away.

Born in the USA

Yet another second-hand account
of the Korean experience

but, sometimes another voice must be heard
among the waves of voices,
just as there are reasons for which a man
must leave - board a plane and fly away.

1972 found my dad two months
into painting house roofs and pumping gas,
an amiable chink or jap, or,
if they were culturally aware, gook.

Twenty years later, the newspaper
he operated out of LA, like a hibiscus
suddenly aware of its rootless stem,
lost its pages one by one
as stores burned and ad money dried up.

Whitewashed. Old Town rather than Koreatown.
Bruce Springsteen is not my own,
though he could have written a song or two
about that 29th of April, twenty years
of gas and paint and paper gone up in smoke.

A Blessing

Soon it will be fall. Already the trees have lost their green
and turned the color of patchwork quilts that have
seen years of use - faded blocks, not yet in their full
autumnal glory. I drop the tea infuser into the metal pot

and imagine the dark, dried leaves the color of moss
meeting the hot water: a little burst of life, a wettening,
an opening up, a dance of utter and instant fragility.
Then they impart their essence to the water,
and to the steam as it circles and breaks into the air.

Where are you now - my imagination is limited
to thoughts on tea leaves and tree leaves
and the connection of things like water and autumn.
It is harder to see how a stone should take your place,
to be touched by rain and sun and the careful polishing strokes
that are as close to touching your face as possible.

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