Nocturne with Red Lights


The past draws back
into the ribboned neckline of the city,
the little black dress of Seoul nighttime.
Hawkers offer bamboo steamer baskets,
lanterns to carve up the dark. Syllables of the language
I misplaced nine years ago. Grandmother
steps out of a eulogy, twenty-two years old,
and takes me to dance. The city corsages my wrists,
adores me for one second more, for one dance
more. When the clock strikes midnight,
downtown dresses up in teething neon.
Every shadow turns into a woman
selling her wares, heirloom bodies
in exchange for coin. I was told Grandmother
ghosted herself in pieces; the pearl-round cheek
and the bend of a shoulder and then
the convergence of her legs. Every night, she let the buyers
roam unshaven sidewalks, prowl through her skin
until the smashed fruit of dawn
came spilling across their beds. There are things we do
to survive. Still, tonight, Grandmother buys me
a lantern to launch into the sky
where the stars drip electric halos, each one
a moon shot out of orbit. ​For your wishes, ​she says.
Her dress waterfalls like a monsoon. Tonight,
her face is smoother than cloth, and lighter, too.

About the Author
Eunice Kim is a Korean-American writer living in Seoul. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vagabond City Lit, Sonora Review, Barren Magazine, Young Poets Network and more.