The alternative is always poetry and everybody knows it.

I read a poem a few years back, almost ten now, back when it was all still poetry. It said “the brave never write poetry, they die and then they are dead”, and I loved it because how fucking facile, how fucking empty to just write and hope that it’s something, and then it is something for someone at some point, but that’s the nature of everything, and everything doesn’t feel great when someone thinks anything of it.

Now though,

now that everything is prose,

how poetry looks much different.

Prose is the alarm at 7:20, getting up and fucking around until 7:50, showering until 8, walking the dog and picking up his shit, and fixing hair, and maybe a squirt of that scented oil that, like everything else, loses its magic by lunch time.

Prose is lunchtime with the same people, or maybe the others went out or had a business trip so lunch today is sitting in the corner, tray full, browsing stocks, or browsing your feed, or maybe just browsing nothing but still swiping so as not to feel lonely and maybe even look productive!

Prose is getting home and having a crisis about what to consume, and in the end it’s the same as yesterday because otherwise there would be no time to do what? Recover? Certainly nothing poetic, unless it’s a special day or something like that.

Poetry is for the brave, actually.

Poetry is for those who are not afraid of putting themselves out there, beyond the boundaries of where they’re supposed to be, and while they’re out there maybe they’re not happy but they’re out there and it’s more than prose can say, sitting propped up on the bed drenched in light from the tv playing that thing that a radical friend suggested and holy shit wouldn’t a revolution be great?

but that would be poetry

and poetry is only for the brave.

Will my children write diaspora poetry?

Will my son write about the pain of not knowing the terror of
police asking him where he’s going? Where he’s been?

Will my daughter write about not knowing how cold the winters are,
how not walking to work at 5 AM at -45 degrees Celsius has
distanced her from herself?

Will my children mourn the loss of something they’ve never known
(but are expected to know)
simply because they are mine.

I wonder if being from here will be enough to be
from here, or if it’ll be the same.


I have a particular way of writing when I feel like I want to be profound but have nothing to say. Lots of words. Lots of big words. Lots of big words and long sentences and a comma where there really should be a period and an argument where there should be nothing at all.
Sometimes, when it’s late at night and I want to feel poetic, I’ll sit in my work-room, drink a glass of gin, and make up some personal history that maybe never happened to make me feel a little bit more unique.
I know facts. I know a lot of facts.
Did you know that South Korea’s first government was a republic built by independence activists who fought against Japanese colonialism, only to lose their country again to the US, who installed a military dictator who forcefully suppressed dissidents just so they could open up a McDonalds?
Who gives a shit, really?
What are facts?
How will facts help me, or anyone, when some black swan come through the party just to fuck everything up?
Covid 19, you fucking asshole. Why are you here? Fuck the politics, and the country blaming, and the job loss, and the stock market, and the Dow Jones is up 400 points whatever that means.
People are dying. People are losing everything. People.
I’ve started writing letters to people I’ve done some bad shit to.
Sorry, Claudia, for making our breakup about how you were a yuppie and I was a free spirit or some shit, instead of just accepting that I was a shitty person. Sorry for planning to light your apartment building on fire. Not sure you know about that. Not sure I was serious about it, either.
Sorry, Gideon, for not responding to your email for 5 months because I don’t know how to deal with awkward situations. I truly fucking love you.
Sorry, kid whose name I can’t remember, for bullying you in front of the entire class because I thought we were cool and you would get that it was just games.
When there’s a little bit of light, it’s not hard to find a whole lot of ugly.
When there’s a little bit of ugly, it’s easy to lose a whole lot of light.

Thoughts in late May

Memory is a film best directed by Miklós Jancsó; exciting, visceral, random; an endless plot of random occurrence; re-occurring characters and noteworthy folk-songs. Sometimes I wish my company could hear my memories. but when I think on them — and I mean really think — I begin to wonder if the audio is authentic or if those scenes are strips in the editing room, products of another re-dub.

Pantoum: That time I adopted a dog.

We freed him from his cage into the backseat.
He curiously sniffed around at first.
He laid down, vomited, and fell asleep,
Mechanical vibrations his berceuse.

He curiously sniffed around at first,
His new home, free to roam in open space.
Mechanical vibrations his berceuse,
He turned his back, and slept, and farted.

At home, he’s free to roam in open space.
We took him to the vet to get checked out.
He turned his back, and slept, and farted,
Hoping he would never have to go back.

We took him to the vet to get checked out.
In time, he lay down, vomited, and fell asleep.
Hoping he would never have to go back,
We freed him from his cage into the backseat.

Vignette: Pacific passage

We found Kendall in the middle of the street in the middle of the night staring into the sky. “The stars changed, Yu-Jin,” he said unblinking, like a statue on the perch of those moss-covered historical sites we’d visited earlier in the day. It was his first time out of the country, out of the four-block radius that encircled his home, his school, his life. “The spoon is all the way over there, it’s supposed to be right here.” He moved his finger across the sky, attempting to drag the stars along.

“Yes, you’re right. A lot of things is different here.” I kept my sentences short. Pronunciation dulls over time, grammar and vocabulary dull over time. It had been a long time for me.

“The sky looks bigger, I can see real far.” His curiosity was a welcome trait, for I feared homesickness might settle too quickly, that this change would prove too jarring.

Murder, or something like it.

I ran over a cat with my car and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself.

She was scared. She, I think. Maybe I’m projecting. I don’t want her to be a she, and that makes it hard to think otherwise. I can’t forget her, skittering back and forth across the middle lane of a three-lane street. The bus in front of me had obscured her from view before pulling over to the side at the last second to pick up a passenger, I thought. I was wrong.

She was black, small, and terrified. I only saw her for a second, darting around that confined space, death speeding at her in the form of a lime green 3000-pound behemoth. My favourite toy now a murder weapon. To the left was a wall of cars, like bullets at a hundred kilometres per hour. To the right was the bus, dodging the hit, placing the responsibility entirely on my shoulders. In the bus driver’s attempt to save her he made me a killer. He, I think. Maybe I’m projecting.

What choice did I have? With cars speeding behind me I couldn’t stop. Had I stopped I would have been rear-ended. That car the same, and the same repeated down the line. Cars would have been smashed. Drivers may have been injured. Still, she would have lived, I think, and isn’t that worth it? The more I think about it the more it worries me that I didn’t in the moment.

The closer I got, the more frantic she grew. I swerved slightly to avoid running her over and watched in my rear-view mirror, waiting with dread for confirmation. It’s not that I haven’t killed anything before. I have no problem popping a bug, or slapping a mosquito off of my arm, but I’ve never met a mosquito that was afraid to be squashed. It was her fear that made her different. It was her fear that made me different.

Soon she appeared, slightly to the left of where my car had been, sitting apparently undamaged. Maybe I’m projecting.


I used to be a creative.

After graduating university all I wanted to do was write. All I wanted to do was put words on paper in a fancy way to make people think I was smarter than I was, more interesting than I was, more creative than others, more. Four years of Tennyson, Yeats, Auden, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Shelley, Wollstonecraft, Asimov, Hubbard, Heinlein, Orwell, Woolf, Morrison, Hughes, Walker, writers on writers on writers writing about writing and reading and endless words on paper. Research and writing on writing. Writing my thoughts on the research I read. A labyrinth, a maelstrom of thoughts and ideas and brilliance and I didn’t know where I fit in. I so badly wanted to belong in that world. I wanted to be read and studied and researched, even though I knew that if anyone researched me all they would find at the end was a run of the mill person with the same run of the mill anxieties of anyone with an English degree. All I wanted was to be brilliant. All I wanted was to change the world.

Then I got paid. May 24, 2013: 2.3 million KRW directly into my back account. 2.3 million KRW worth of security. 2.3 million KRW more than I ever had in my life, and the promise of the same next month.


From barely surviving to thriving, and all I had to do was move to a new country. That was seven years ago. It has been seven years since I’ve had the motivation to write anything interesting. It has been seven years since I’ve been interested in being brilliant. It has been seven years since I thought I was destined for more than sitting at a fucking desk smashing away at a keyboard, screaming into the void with the hopes that the void would scream back. Four years ago I started blaming comfort. It’s been four years and I still haven’t built anything.

So, here it is. Here is a promise I’m making myself.

I promise to stop fucking whining about doing nothing while doing nothing, about receiving nothing while creating nothing, of believing that eventually shit will fall in my lap and all I have to do is be ready.

Fuck that.

Seven years later and I’m back staring into the void, ready to dive back in, ready to fucking scream.

Flash Fiction: In the hours when you fall asleep

But I was never good at dealing with loneliness anyways. On my best days I could push the feeling downward; only ever so low that it was a light thrum against the back of my throat and not the haunting spectre that filled my lungs and made my tongue swell. A younger version of myself might have believed that enough of the good stuff could drown it out completely, but it’s in the very nature of the good stuff to change shape once you think you’ve secured it.

I want to tell you this when you’re awake but I know the nature of these things. It’s 2019. Everyone has anxiety. Growing up is learning how to deal with it on your own, I think. It’s not as if you’ll be around forever, or I’ll be around forever, or as if this is anyone’s problem but my own. When everyone has the same problem it’s your job to deal with it in your own way. That’s something my dad would’ve told me, rest his soul. I would’ve liked it if you could’ve met him, but that’s just another one of those things, I guess.

It’s not every night that I talk to you like this, by the way. Most nights I just sit and stew inside of myself, eyes closed, trying to sleep before it all catches up with me. Your breath is like a lullaby. Steady cadence on most nights, and on your restless nights I put my hand on your belly and you calm down, and so do I, and we both fall asleep together. To have you beside me, alive as I am, that’s really something.

I really do love you, even though you you can’t really talk to me. I didn’t look for you for the sake of conversation. That would’ve been foolish. I found you because you needed a home. I guess, in a way, I did too.


I will never mistaken the scent of a fish being fried,
scales and skin flat on the pan until crunchy or in a puddle of hydrogenated vegetable oil floating or on the edge of my mother’s spatula inches from the paper-towel laid on eighteen-year-old plates to absorb the runaway-grease.

“Fried fish smells too strong,” she would say as she opened the screen door to the backyard and the front door to the porch and every window on the rooms adjacent.

When I was 10 she started frying it outside, so I would stand by the screen door and wait for the tilapia or milkfish to pop out of the pan, let it sit until she was done, and then take the hottest piece.

“Fried fish smells too strong” says my girlfriend as I fry a salmon steak skin-side down for dinner and actively choose not to turn on the kitchen fan,

“turn on the kitchen fan” she says, and I say I forgot.

See, I know it stinks.

I know what fried fish smells like.

It smells like dinner at 10 because my mom got home late and didn’t have time to cook anything else.

It smells like eating with my hands over a plate of rice because it’s easier to feel the bones and also that’s how my parents ate it so I mimicked them.

It smells like soft white flesh falling off semi-translucent bones that crack at the slightest force but stab like a knife in your mouth.

Like my dad, calling on his way from his first job to his second, near midnight, us still at the table waiting for his voice because we only really see him on the weekends.

Like mornings eating leftovers for breakfast and waiting for him to come home so that I’ll be late enough for him to drive me to school and we’ll get to spend an extra thirty minutes together even if all we talk about is The Raptors, or The Blue Jays while I sort through the cd mixes I’ve left in the car and look for one we haven’t heard yet or in a while at least.

I will never mistaken the smell of a fish being fried.

It smells like hiding my lunches in elementary school and eating them cold when I get home, in my basement, because I don’t want the other kids to see me eating what I eat at home and making fun of me for it.

I will never mistaken the smell of six months of pescetarianism I undertook as an experiment but enjoyed because once you stop eating meat you stop craving meat, and my mom didn’t know what to cook for me and thought I was crazy but I ate the fried fish and she was just happy to see me eat.

If you ask me what my favourite food is I’d probably say steak, or lobster, or crab, or something too expensive to be eaten regularly.
But, if I’m really being honest,
it’s fish. Fried.

Extra stink on the side.