Angry Poetry Corner: "Flight from Seoul" by Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut

We're getting poetic up here. It's time for another installment of the Angry Poetry Corner, a semi-regular spotlight where we present the work of various poets from the AAPI community -- not necessarily angry poems (though there are certainly some of those too) -- curated by Cara, our Angry Asian Intern. Because you could use a little more poetry in your life.

In the corner this week, a poem by Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut:

flight from seoul
june 1979

Each time, I forgive myself for weeping
when I read your letter and invent you in June
as a tall, pale foreigner burning in the sun

as you step from the train on your way
to school, crossing the market of steaming
vendor’s carts filled with silk worms and rice cakes,

pausing by the monk outside the temple
whose long, silver sleeves trail along the ground,
the metal cloud gong thrumming

through you shrill as sunlight.
But what is stronger than memory?
A two-year-old girl with slanting eyes

and shorn scalp, I picked at the scrap of paper
pinned to my shirt in the photograph.
In the airplane, I kindled the air

with cries of "O-ma, o-ma, o-ma!"
The heat was enough to make anyone sob, you wrote.
You were the missionary who left me

an oblation in an aging, yellow letter.
What I want to know, I ask from years ahead—
What do I do with all of this?
Adopted from Korea at the age of two, Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut’s writing seeks to both unsettle and complicate presumptions about what ties people together in times of longing and loss. Her latest collection is called Magnetic Refrain.

angry archive