Sung Yim is a bilingual South Korean immigrant living in Illinois. Their work has appeared in The James Franco Review, Contrary, Kweli, and Crab Fat Magazine. An excerpt of their debut memoir is available for pre-order as a chapbook by Ghost City Press, and that memoir in question, What About the Rest of Your Life, will be out this fall from Portland’s Perfect Day Publishing.
for ‘the smelly kind’ of immigrant
tell your parents to stop worrying about you
because capitalism is collapsing & we’re all gonna die poor.
this planet will be here whether we kill ourselves on it or not.
tell them life is too short to measure worth
by your ability to survive a death machine.
every promise is a white lie
when there are no guarantees. kiss them free of this
the way you sweep dead hairs. first the hands & eyelids
then the blood of comfort women
weeping through them like old magic.
on their deathbed, bring Earth’s great disasters of hubris
from their lips to yours
Hiroshima/Nagasaki/Einstein’s frontal lobe
the 3 ships of Columbus/guns & dead kids.
thank those hard lessons the way sin-eaters forgive.
ask your parents, where is the shame in doing your best
& when they point to a stack of bills, set them ablaze.
say when you draw a family tree of historical tragedies
you can trace most of them back to fireworks.
do you need my mom’s estrogen
Actress Jean Seberg was hounded by the FBI for her public support
of the Black Panther Party. She had repeatedly attributed entering
premature labor to stress caused by the FBI’s investigation. Her
infant child died two days after birth. Seberg was found dead of a
barbiturate overdose in the back of her car, clutching a suicide note.
you’ll never know this poem is for you but that’s ok
i would still describe you as Jean Seberg but better
& alive despite everything Nixon lived for
she wrote, FORGIVE ME
she wrote, I CAN NO LONGER LIVE WITH MY NERVES
or whatever that is in French
we are probably always losing things in translation like that
did you know the FBI spread vicious rumors
that sent her to the hospital room
where the Black Panthers rifled through her purse
as she lost her baby?
at least that’s what the white journalist says she said
we are probably always losing in translation
isn’t it funny how trust keeps running us into trouble
how violence spares no favorites when it isn’t the intended goal?
i would still say watching you almost
get hit by a car in broad daylight
is the most breathtaking ease in the world
we are probably always losing
i would still kill every doctor who made you
feel like you shouldn’t call your mom for wearing a dress
we are probably losing
i would kill every cop but there’s laundry to do