He is a Saito, a bone.
I am a Koh, a hymen.
When he pushes in, dead bodies sparkle.
Jap of a Jap of a Gook is a Gook.
Him, a banzai army.
I, a burial site.
Do they shudder when we come?
He is a half. I am a quarter.
Our daughter is rock, paper, scissor.
The war is ongoing. Unten is Japanese.
Unjun, Korean. It means drive a car—a tank.
Korean: PIano. Japanese: piANO.
You want ramyun or ramen?
Noodles, he says.
Of course, I say.
We left a massacre holding hands.
Homecoming: ritual for the dead to visit family.
Offering: peeled oranges on an altar.
This is Korean, my mother says.
The altar is Shinto.
The picture is Christian.
The dead is Buddhist.
Mix it up. Bibimbap, egg and rice.
He is White and Yellow.
I am Yellow and Yellow.
Daughter: Bibimbap, gluten-free.
Languages are lovers.
Korean says: Liberate me.
Japanese says: Parade me.
English goes: Fuck you.
I put my lovers on paper. I hang them up
by driving a nail into the wall.
We argue about a stranger whose name
is forgotten. She’s entitled, he says.
No, I reply. She’s racist.
I’m the poet—in one interview
I said, “Love what you observe.”
Crying, I learn.
My grandmother was Japanese, or both
grandparents, some. But you’re Korean, he says.
Even if I speak better Japanese, lived longer
in Japan, he says, You didn’t grow up Japanese.
I slice open my tongue with a fishhook,
give him a quarter back.
I ask my mother, What if I was a Korean man
and he was a Japanese woman?
Would it be tolerable? Would I get praise?
Your grandmother is dead, my mother says,
She must be lonely.
Our daughter is Haru. Her name is Korean
and Japanese. In Korean, it means One Day.
In Japanese, it means Spring. Together,
in English, One Spring Day:
A perfect example of nature, depends
on the effort of others, looks to excite
a question. Non-possessable. Knows
to be gone, empty, or high possibility.
Unbothered by time since
time is space, another space is now.
Becoming new, feeling unconcerned.
The day, tied on a string to the earth,
circling the ground, the stirring lets me
know it’s there to teach me, keep on.
E. J. Koh is the author of poetry collection A Lesser Love (Louisiana State U. Press, 2017), winner of the Pleiades Editors Prize, and memoir The Magical Language of Others (Tin House, 2020). Her poems, translations, and stories have appeared in Boston Review, Columbia Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, and S