Elane Kim


I want more small kindnesses:
glass stained in every direction,
the windows stacked tall,
a looping stop. Pick a side already: the sky
or the sea. More rain or bullets
still soft with skin. The open river
or the open door. Your blood or mine.
Transpose your life onto a railway track
& see if you can make it home
with one ticket. Memorize the timetables.
Sure, there are ways of beginning
that don’t involve memory. Save those
for later. I want to point in any direction
& say I love so-and-so & mean it.
I want something I can get wrong the first try
& love by the second. Love like
shades of snow against dirt. Love like
soft hands, blue tongues,
tangerine peels painted over in gesso. Love like
warmth framed & stuck on the ceiling fan, like
so many birds on the ocean floor.
I must have missed my stop. Play a song
before you go.

Duplex in San Francisco

—After Frank O’Hara
There is home in this body
somewhere, I am sure.
A home is still a home
without light, without
a welcome mat at the mouth.
This is something I do not learn
until the light bulbs
and prayers expire with a gasp,
until my shadow becomes a
bitter song. Cicadas redden the front
yard with decay. There is no need
for windows in an empty house. I eat
buildings and bones. When I say
I am sure, I mean to say I am waiting
for the weeds to grow back.


The most fundamental facts of the universe
must be taken as true, or else nothing
will make sense. The fact is that I am trying to be honest.
I swear. I can’t hold a note for more than twenty seconds.
There are words in Korean with no English equivalent
whose shapes I trace & study. Survival is an act
of loneliness. Love is an act of terrible warmth. I believe
in unobservables, action at a distance,
fluorescent green rain boots. I believe
the weather forecast & then the diagnosis.
Did you eat today? Which way did your pillow face?
Can you stomach juk? Which nurse came
to see you? Are you always so quiet?
Were there many birds outside the window?
I believe in so much that isn’t there: a wildfire,
or a box with your face embroidered in red, or apples
& tangerines & their bruised bodies. The fact is that
I am still trying to be honest. The fact is that nothing
makes sense. The loneliest parts of the world
are still trying to be found. I want
there to be warmth, even if it cannot be kept
& framed over the mantel. I want more to call my own.
Will you eat tomorrow? Which way is the right way?
Can you stomach the uncertainty of rain, of the open door?
Do you have something left to say? What are you watching,
if not the birds? Are you already gone?

Elane Kim is a high-school student based in California. Her writing has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Narrative Magazine, and Bow Seat, among others. She serves as the editor-in-chief of Gaia Lit.