Helena Chung


Fractioned in this kitchen,
you, unlike my father, are only today
small and fragile. You direct me
to a wall and say, here is a man
who knew when to pluck me right.

Like the unsweet seed I am,
I demand a mountain range
in your pit, a glimmer of
Virginia that I miss so much.

You direct me to a flower,
say, here’s a good animal
that can hold all your water for you.

I want you to rip up my plane
tickets, cup your hands over
my mouth and tell me I don’t plan
on playing the piano anytime
soon, so I can say no.

I have already descended
your father’s mountain.

I would like to remind you how much
of me is water, how much you’ve asked
to become salt.


I can make myself into a symphony of horror
          without a seaside village mold. My tooth aches
          every time I cup my ear, which I guess, makes

me Dracula. Slabs of ocean
          step aside for tourists (my mouth too). Then,
          I kept ivory in my pockets, polished piano keys

beating against my every step. I am darling moon,
          I am also gizzard shad, it turns out, an O-lipped fish for you
          to gut whenever. You say: pick one bullet or bullion.

I say: weekend corpse. This, my tooth doom inevitable.
          I can lie still like I’m being X-rayed.


            after Hirokazu Koreeda

The year I meet my sister
she is still pale and learning
to walk herself to school.

That year, we grind flesh
in our palms, and oil, and salt.

We string ourselves as perch
on the fisherman’s line.
We watch the ocean expecting
half to see a girl of foam, fully formed,
or else an infinity of eyes, pearled
in the summer heat.

Let me tell you how it is
miraculous, fingerling hanging
from her mouth, crumbs
dusting her gingham dress.
There is all this, father,
all this water I can’t control.


Helena Chung‘s work appears or is forthcoming in PANK Magazine and Word Riot. She studies poetry in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where she recently received an Academy of American Poets Prize.