Thursday Jun 04

Han-Poetry Joseph Han was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. His fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Mascara Literary Review, Bamboo Ridge Press, Word Riot, CURA: A Literary Magazine of Art & Action, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Eclectica Magazine. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa, where he won the 2015 Academy of American Poets Prize.

Cartography: A Folktale 

A skull gave me a poem in a dream
after I pulled a root from its nose
that kept it sneezing below the dirt.
From its nostrils I spilled the earth
and gathered teeth and pebbles
resembling them into my palm.
I cleaned the skull in water and rinsed
his mouth as it chattered in my hands,
soil dispersing from grooves of bone.
It took a new place on a hillside, buried
in a map I used to discover where my
family had lived – South or North.
I performed jesa and tabled foods
and makgeolli, soon placing a spoon
in a bowl of rice after bowing.
Permitting I found my past in bone,
the rigidness of my last name, I prayed
that this spirit could rest.
The poem was in a language heard
through gaps and lines, a new map
in shapes for me to follow.
The skull at its beginning, the face
of my josang, gestured for me
to find a place to bury myself. 


Carrying Method 

With legs crossed
unused limb acting
as buffer,
grandfather’s right hand
curled, striving to roll
back into wrist,
his body figured
into a rotting stump.
I wrapped around
his frame, wanting
to blanket him
like podaegi around
my back, sling
his weight to
my balance
the way mothers
parallel hearts
with children –
so they may decipher
thunder in life
I will carry grandfather
as he listens
to my breath
while I bend –
so he may hover
and know
what it means to
stand with me again.
His thin shirt grafted
like second skin.
Hooks angling him
down sang
like wind chimes.
I could have
been in class,
grandmother at work,
against his own
humiliation, an old
koi flopping
on the cold dock.


My fingers pinch the shot glass
bucket waiting for its fill. A thumbprint
winks when caught by light.
This is how we glisten:
when an opaque green neck meets
the edge of his cup as it pours.
My head cranes forward with respect.
We toast to the first time father and
I share a drink. When our lips greet
glass, men and their sons around
the world share their only kiss.