Amid Rising Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

Franny Choi

Your country's memory is short. But know this:     We can still hear the planes, their death-knell hum—            We live, have been living, with this threat     circling our heads like we were carrion,                        staining the earth we still call home     despite the pictures, which know only how                      to mark what happened. The choices     to tell one truth at a time. Our names were                       made in the dry mouths of children,     napalm, ravaged paddies, lung cancer. Names,              sewn straight into our breasts. We live—     like ghosts, reverberate. The bad memories                              have to live somewhere. Why not     in the body? They climb to the surface,                               smother doubt to save the family     from war's muck. War: the only surname                 we're responsible for. The only sunlight     on our unmarked graves. Our sustenance                           is this story spun from the records,     amid your savage freeze. So we married fear,      and we've taken its name as our own. Yes, we     salvaged these small lives. We're free, at least, to            sob and shudder, yes, and feed our babies,     remember the acrid clouds we dripped from,                                    and cling to them—as if we're the bad ones—for dear, stupid life.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print

Franny Choi is the author of Soft Science and Floating, Brilliant, Gone. She teaches creative writing through InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit.

Spring 2019

New York, New York

Editor
Emily Nemens

Managing Editor
Hasan Altaf

Online Editor
Nadja Spiegelman

Assistant Online Editor
Brian Ransom

Assistant Editor
Lauren Kane

Guest Poetry Editor
Vijay Seshadri

Since its founding 1953, The Paris Review has been America’s preeminent literary quarterly, dedicated to discovering the best new voices in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The Review’s renowned Writers at Work series of interviews is one of the great landmarks of world literature. Hailed by the New York Times as “the most remarkable interviewing project we possess,” the series received a George Polk Award and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. With the December 2016 redesign of the Review’s website, the complete digital archive of everything we’ve published since 1953 is available to subscribers. In November 2017, the Review gave voice to nearly sixty-five years of writing and interviews with the launch of its first-ever podcast, featuring a blend of classic stories and poems, vintage interview recordings, and new work and original readings by the best writers of our time.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.