I. Budae Jjigae (Army Stew)
Cans of Spam were bestowed: a parting gift
ditched in disarray at army bases.
Soldiers counted small wins in the rubble:
Processed meat. Ramen. Rice cakes. Boiled and topped
with clean-cut squares of American cheese
blistering over a small pot of stew,
noodles bloated across a sea of red
hot chili pepper specks searing in stone
piecemeal memories of what was once whole.
My mother packed eggs sunny side up,
Spam slices golden-browned to perfection
tucked into my lunchbox. Kids could not grasp
the modern lunch meat marvel—
my salty paradise reclaimed from tin cans.
II. Zero Gravity
On April 8, 2008, Korea’s first astronaut Yi So-yeon was launched into space.
Paradise packed in a tin can, salted
———and freeze-dried: space kimchi, sanctified
for odyssey with the first astronaut
———to brave Earth’s gravitational field. She
———was commissioned for cosmic inquiry:
Can flies fly in outer space? At what pace
———do hearts beat in zero gravity?
Over and over she watched the sun rise,
———examined the small blue marble floating
lonesome, eyes tracing the orb for a glimpse
———of a peninsula too tiny
to spot till darkness lit up tinseled edges
of home—brilliance, stark and separate
———-from above the 38th parallel.
III. Moon Mission
“Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of DPRK on the moon.”
—Hyong Kwang-Il, Director of North Korea’s Aerospace Development Administration
Above the 38th parallel lay
schools, tombs and shrines—tactical targets marked
in red on maps of five-star generals.
A steady cadence of napalm rained down
etching pockmarks on scorched soil and skin
while several strata below the ground
my grandmother whispered a prayer within
a cratered dugout
———uuuuu bb ———-to the vast cosmos
where the cleaved country would one day claim
the mission of flying their red-star flag.
Pundits placed bets on the unlikelihood
of their adversary landing the moon,
could not fathom such desolation
reaching orbit: bodies, celestial.
Susan is a Korean American poet and MFA candidate at the Writer’s Foundry of St. Joseph’s College. Her coordinates for home fall between the US, China and Korea, and she currently resides in Brooklyn.