Joan Kwon Glass: Three Poems
Selected by Alexis Rhone Fancher, Poetry Editor
When you died,
mom insisted we remove
every photo from the walls.
Not just the ones with you in them,
but also of me and my children.
And your children.
Next, she invited friends
to take your belongings:
a new set of dishes, your perfume,
a book you inscribed in high school,
the little “a” at the end of “Julia,”
tender and intact.
Ancient Egyptians believed
that to cross over into the Land of Two Fields,
your heart must be light as a feather,
and your name cast onto stone,
for this means you are loved.
I practice writing your name,
leaving it anywhere
that feels permanent.
I press your handwriting
into papyrus wings.
Mom motions toward me
with outstretched hands,
offering up a handful of your jewelry
as if to say, take these
before they break
or are stolen from us.
Hold them in your hands.
Pretend that something,
other than her absence
Questions For My Mother
I want to ask
when he questioned you about heaven
why did you choose angels?
you could have pointed
to the tulips opening
why didn’t you call for help
as soon as you heard the gunshot?
I mean how can a gunshot in the next room
sound like anything other than a gunshot?
what if we’d written his obituary to say
who he might have been
and instead of naming his survivors
listed those who failed him?
how can you still spend every Sunday
reading those stories about men
who give up their firstborn
to prove their love for God?
Instead I ask
why do you keep buying orange juice
for my children when it has so much sugar?
their adult teeth have grown in already
they still have their whole lives
ahead of them.
Today my uncle and his wife will visit
my grandparents’ tomb in Korea
the way they do every year.
They will leave trays stacked high
with persimmons and powdered tteok
then say a Christian prayer as the wind
stirs everything into wakefulness.
On 추석 we remember the rise of the Silla,
kingdom of gold crowns with jade
carved and dangling like grapes.
We celebrate three centuries of unity,
North and South, dead and living together.
We salute the rising moon.
I think of my nephew’s grave in Troy, Michigan,
7,400 miles from my grandparents’ tomb,
his headstone flush to the ground.
Every time it rains the water floats trash
down from the street nearby:
a cigarette box, crumpled Burger King cups,
plastic bags torn like the skin of ravaged prey.
If I could go back I would claim a summit
and build him a tomb.
I would set a Silla crown upon his head.
Every year, I’d bring gifts and invite the wind
into the tomb where his skeletal jaws
hang wide open forever
trying to say one last thing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joan Kwon Glass’s first full-length poetry collection, NIGHT SWIM won the 2021 Diode Poetry Prize. She is the author of BLOODLINE, winner of the Harbor Review Washburn Prize, the chapbook HOW TO MAKE PANCAKES FOR A DEAD BOY, which won the Harbor Editions Marginalia Contest & the chapbook “If Rust Can Grow on the Moon” (Milk & Cake Press, 2022). In 2021 she was a Runner-Up for the Sundress Publications Chapbook Contest, a finalist for the Harbor Review Editor’s Prize, the Subnivean Award & the Lumiere Review Writing Contest. Joan is a graduate of Smith College & serves as poet laureate for the city of Milford, CT & as poetry co-editor for West Trestle Review. She has spent the past 20 years as an educator in the Connecticut public schools. Her poems have recently been published or are forthcoming in Diode, The Rupture, Nelle, Rattle, Pirene’s Fountain, SWWIM, Dialogist, South Florida Poetry Journal, Honey Literary, Mom Egg, Rust & Moth, Lantern Review & many others. Joan has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net. She tweets @joanpglass & you may read her previously published work at www.joankwonglass.com.
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