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love poem with dead leaves & color

love poem with dead leaves & color

love poem with dead leaves & color

by Esther Ra

with a line from Jane Eyre

All of my plants kept dying, so I started drying
them out instead, what bright scraps of color
and green-flushed shoots could be preserved.
My sister laughed: The plant serial killer
of Bomun Street–behold, her house
full of skeletons!
But even petrified,
tenderness is better than nothing at all.
Than birds with cold tongues sliding
out of their beaks. Or love poems over
an axed corpse. Things happen to make us
defensive: I crossed my arms over my head
and made a threshold, a door, and smiled
enough to keep everyone out. To pretend
to be well-adjusted. But the truth is
I would always rather be happy than
dignified. Rather held than held
in awe. I first learned the language
of love from the rush of spilled ink
on sheared trees: no wonder I flinch
at your touch. Yet now I am here,
in my house full of frozen leaves and flowers,
so brittle they splinter in my fingers,
scatter fragments on my carpet and hair.
I would rather be touched than in terror.
Would be pleased to crumble in your arms.
You kept bringing me ham & seaweed
& ginger, bananas & tulips & cake,
& because love is not my first language
I cried out in distress, Does this mean
you like me? Does this mean you care?

And you bowled my face
in the width of your hands, laughing,
Yes. Very much. Look around you.
Isn’t it obvious I do?

Esther Ra is a bilingual writer and illustrator from Seoul, South Korea. She is the author of A Glossary of Light and Shadow (forthcoming from Diode Editions, selected for its Full-Length Book Award), book of untranslatable things (2018, selected for the Grayson Books Chapbook Award) and the founding editor of The Underwater Railroad, a literary reunification project. Her work has also been published in Boulevard, Rattle, Twyckenham Notes, The Rumpus, PBQ, and Korea Times, among others. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pushcart Prize, 49th Parallel Award, Women Writing War Poetry Award, and Sweet Lit Poetry Award. (