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.

English: 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 BooksPrairie Schooner, and Southeast Review. She accepted fellowships from Kundiman, The MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and The Jack Straw Writers Program. She is the recipient of the 2017 American Literary Translators Association Emerging Translator Fellowship. She earned her MFA at Columbia University in New York for Poetry and Literary Translation of Korean. She is completing her PhD at the University of Washington for English Language and Literature in Seattle.