Ceremony, by Jennifer Kwon Dobbs
For years as a graduate student, I sensed a male presence listening while I read drafts aloud and tinkered late into the night, so I wasn’t surprised when a Korean shaman elder, her back bending and left eye closing as his spirit possessed her, said how much he enjoyed watching me write poems. 4번째할아버지, my four-times great-grandfather, had been a man of letters, owned many cows and good land.
Haraboji has followed me, he intimated, ever since I was sent to the U.S. as an infant. And because I came back from the dead as a teenager—a Tulsa emergency room doctor shocked my heart and I survived an overdose of sleeping pills—I resemble Bari Gongju, who travels to the underworld to bring back medicine for her dying parents, the king and queen. Disappointed at her birth to have a seventh daughter, not a first son, they locked her newborn body in a fine jade box and summoned the Minister of Rites to cast her into the magpie shoals in the sea of blood as an offering to the Dragon Kings of the four seas.