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