hye (혜) by Karis Ryu

Jan 17, 2024

After An Suk-seon and Eleana J. Kim

생전사후 이 원통을 알어 줄이가 뉘 있드란 말이냐 

춘향가 중 쑥대머리

I once read a book about landmines. 

It described a man whose name I don’t remember

scavenging along the DMZ. I don’t remember 

how, but the metal in the landmines made him a 

life in his hands.

I see this man, older than someone who is 

not my grandfather, walking through the green of that 

field experts call the 38th parallel. Holding

a live balm

in his hands.

Some nights, I think about my grandmother. 

She who held what we did not know 

to call it. Shrapnel lodged in our funeral black. 

So we were not the exception after all.

When she was sick, Umma told me to stop crying

before we went into the apartment. 

I am sorry your life hurts, but you can’t kill yourself. 

Halmeoni will think it’s her fault.

I know what she would say now. 

Forgive them. Forgive me.

For I know not what I am doing.

After death, will there be anyone who understands this pain?

From “Ssukdaemeori,” or “Mugwort-Like Tangled Hair,” in Chunhyangga


Hye: Hanja, or Chinese character, with a range of meanings. When derived from eunhye, it stands for “grace.” The first syllable of the author’s Korean given name, chosen by her parents and grandparents. (Pronounced hee-yeh, but as one syllable.)

Umma: Mom

Halmeoni: Grandmother

Karis Ryu is a writer and graduate student based in New Haven, Connecticut. She grew up moving frequently across North America and the Pacific as a U.S. military child of Korean descent. Her work has previously appeared in The Account, Chaotic Merge Magazine, The B’K, and other publications. 

Website: karisryu.com IG: @karis.hae X: @karisryu

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