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Published: Sun Oct 1 2023
Eva Lin Fahey, Motherland (detail), 2021, acrylic on Grandmother’s table​​​​
Online 2023 Loss Journeys War
What Youth

What youth when the heat dries it from

our bones. The coastline buildings written

in italics. Mountains in bold. When T came to

the threshold and told me B was dead

            I began to count the money.

What youth when the days seem blurrier.

Even the smallest sounds arrive 

at the door linking me to the old century.

            A cricket drowning out an empire.

The thing about war is it leaves so many people 

alive. The red sun is a crater where the sky is 

scooped out. Our future is bought with

            past money, where the books were

burned but the language whispered back

into the world. With his final poem

            Hwang Hyeon asks:

            Would you die for this?

When B was lowered into the ground

there were no words.

            Still no words. I don’t know why

I was sent to America to feel someone leave.

            Dear reader, I regret: I wouldn’t die for this.

Don’t we all see the hand of war write  

every landscape? Before B left home I wrote:  

            I’ll remember you.

And that’s all there ever was.


Next up in the portfolio: “Cycles like a Shapeless Child” by Bryan Thao Worra

Self-Portrait as Desert
Online 2024 Journeys Loss Translating
Cycles Like a Shapeless Child
Online 2023 Loss Relationships War
Letters to Omma—Reunion
Online 2023 Nature Loss Journeys
Tiger Mom
Online 2023 Journeys Family Loss

Mark Kyungsoo Bias’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Best New Poets, The Common, The Georgia Review, New England Review, The Offing, and elsewhere. Recipient of the 2022 Joseph Langland Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, he has received support from Tin House Workshop, Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Kundiman, and the Saejowi Initiative for National Integration, which seeks to provide aid to North Korean refugees. He lives in Seoul. (updated 10/2023)

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