Two Poems by Hyejung Kook


the way is clear
marked by those
who came before us
each carrying
a stone or two
to lay along the path
to say here I was
here is the way
the warmth of each
hand fades but
the light-touched
stones still radiate


Today my daughter
and I walked to the edge
of the retaining pond
down the street
the first time she
has left the house
since a week ago
when she fevered
and coughed and we
stared at her sample
slowly wicking up
the white candle
of a test strip and
a single pink line
came into focus
still we quarantined
masked and isolated
but being outside
we could bare our faces
to each other again
and she said look
look and my breath caught
beneath the leaf-studded
iced-over surface
of the pond vibrant
unexpected orange
at least a dozen koi
alert and swimming
in the dead of winter
sensing our approach
with a few measured flicks
of their white fins
the bright flames
of their bodies
into murky gray water
and suddenly
I remembered
that I could breathe


Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY Magazine, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in The Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. You can find more of her poems on this site, and even a selection of poems she gues-edited.

This selection was selected by editors Laura Lee Washburn and Morgan O.H. McCune.


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