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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 16, 2018.
About this Poem 

“The Jeju Island massacre of April 3, 1948, is the ‘red room,’ or the unspeakable history of our past. What today is an island of restoration and tourism was the site of innocent civilian execution. An estimated 70 percent of the island’s villages burned down. My grandmother's father, who I call grandfather, became the road he walked on as a young boy.”
—E. J. Koh

Jeju Island

Everything in the beginning is the same.
Clouds let us look at the sun.
 
Words let us watch a man about to be killed.
The eye-hollows of his skull see home.
 
When they stone him, 
he knows what a stone is—each word, a stone:

The hole of his nose
as dark as the door I pass through.
 
I wander the halls numerously.
He’s no longer my grandfather in weight.
 
Among old bodies piled high, they aim. 
Living can tranquilize you.

Copyright © 2018 by E. J. Koh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by E. J. Koh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

E. J. Koh

E. J. Koh

 

E. J. Koh is the author of A Lesser Love (Louisiana State University Press, 2017), recipient of the Pleiades Press Editors Prize, and the memoir The Magical Language of Others, forthcoming from Tin House Books in 2020.