Photograph of My Grandfather in a Western Business Suit, 1950

"The View" by Eric Breish
“The View” by Eric Breish

by Jia Oak Baker

this is as far back      as i need to go—
not to the three kingdoms of antiquity
but to the tiny kingdom      inside my skull
where i imagine  할아버지
a wealthy silk factory owner      married to my grandmother
and with three concubines
honorable social de facto circumstance      father
to how many children      i’ll never know      where i begin
ceremoniously      is the day he dies     육   이오
the vicissitudes of fortune      we’ve learned to accept
like stones into our pockets stones into our mouths
our silence intensifying sound      gunfire and bombs     and what to wail
when a widow flees with five children
leaves my ten-year-old mother under a chestnut tree      to die
gunshot wounds and nowhere to go      the factory gone the house gone
the trouble      with death      is we are always dying
starvation or exposure or war      it doesn’t matter
my grandmother will hate my mother all the days of her life    will tell her
you should have died      instead of him      불쌍함
in the last picture taken      my grandfather
admires the landscape      turning white      unfolding
its promises of crocuses in spring      the final spring
before the north koreans invade      before they shoot him in the chest
for owning this land for wearing a western suit

One reply on “Photograph of My Grandfather in a Western Business Suit, 1950”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s