/j yun

The Wives

“The wolves wore woman faces. I was always afraid. My father was textile rich with many wives. My mother, the youngest of them, the only one God sent a son through. I was the prize mother’s cheek was ground on washboards for, pulped mess I bloodied my mouth on to prove she was loved.  The wives descended at night with all their teeth. I hid behind the paper screen, watched shadows beat shadow in the lamplight’s flex & release. Then the animal shit left at our door before dawn. Then the suppers laced with wisteria which we ate & heaved like dogs. I dreamt of leaving and I left. The impossible milk of morning made me run away. I kicked dust in the streets as kids cupped their hands in hunger, struggled with the weight of my tongue, dodged Japanese night patrol until I couldn’t. I was brought back cut & gaunt.  No son of mine would bring me this shame. Both the bitch & the whelp have rotted. Fallen from favor, mother held to father’s knees saying ‘we will not go, we will not go.’ For what did we know of hunger? The wolves smothered their laughs, gathered around in their gowns of dyed silk. The night sky we stood under pulsed like something hurting.”




a girl mired in a net


between her legs                                             a quiver


of taking                              she wants to untangle


her limbs                             split the fishhook


from the soft meat of her mouth


skeleton flower


pale vein


when wet                                            she is briefly vanished


but that girl was me


nineteen                                             your red sheets redder


where whetted


with whiskey


what to do with this memory?


worked open


silt in my gills                                      trout mouth puckered and shut


the lazy turns of the ceiling fan


a thread of moonlight                                    sang opal


in your one white hair                   I was frenzied by the moon


what a good girl              


he must have loved having you


                                Just like this                                       


outside the olive trees quivered                overtaken by fruit


my girl is frigid                                  but you—


If wet was I




dear poison


dear quiver of unmaking


if I drank what you offered


if I let you hook your thumb against my lip


if my memory of that night flexes image like a convex mirror


then is memory wrong when it says I said no


only once?


some hours                         you were slow hands


Other-times animal and ravenous


my legs caught in your sheets


like refusal


rain-wet pavement                                         walking home


some nights I dream of only water


Jihyun Yun is a Korean-American poet currently residing in Busan. A Fulbright Fellow and Pushcart Prize nominee, her poetry can be found or is forthcoming in Narrative, Fugue, River Styx, and elsewhere.