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Genetically Speaking 1

Dasom Yang (2019)

I was born in a small country, smaller still

since we’d been halved. A peninsula

attached at the eastern edge of China,

a few islands


away from Japan: a nation destined

to be webbed into a whirlwind of geo-

politics, malicious and opportune.

A country in the shape of a leaping tiger


they said, in school, on TV. Surely the image

was a laughable stretch of imagination—

it looked much closer

to a spilled water, because on the map


all countries were in fact water,

spilling still, becoming oceans, inch by inch.


Here, the West Side was the bad side because

it was ugly. The tidal beaches were fertile

but muddy. Rank. Its people fast, mercurial.

The West Coast stank of the sea, its gift, life.


The East Side was the good side because

it was beautiful. The Coast lined by veins

of tall mountains, sinuous like history.

Not volcanic, seismic only with


beauty. There, winter was long, patient.

Spring trembled with Jindallae and Chulzuk,

summer screamed only in high green.

Autumn was reckless,


the maples bleeding crimson, the ginkgos

losing golden leaves like drunken gamblers.

I was a child of both coasts


in equal measure, like how I looked

like my father, but thought

like my mother. My father, the handsome


fool. My mother, with her bright skin immune

to change, her floating hours lying

on her bed mat not doing nor thinking, just listening

to stories that came from elsewhere. I feared


the sea in me that I knew couldn’t be drained & ached

to become the mountain, but not the altitude.

Sometimes I would look up to the sky and see that


to the east there was no good,

to the west there was no bad. But to become air

you need to be spilled, reach

the ocean.

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