On Falling in Love With Every Ajumma I See: A Poem


I fall in love five times a day.”

– A friend, on Korean women


I. Oh, ajumma!

Like the fleeting radiance
of cherry blossom flowers,
I yearn for that dance,
that brief moment of ours,
when on the subway you shove
me out of your way,
reach the seat you love—
the highlight of your day.
My heart races as you
race to sit down—haste!
there is much ado,
no time to waste!
A seat open’d! Be prudent,
as if a ballet,
you weave between students.

(They don’t deserve it anyway.)

II. Dear femininity!

My chest ‘splodes at each sight
of pursed lips, knock-off purses,
your black-dyed perms quite
seductive; my heart worsens.
Love motels in Korea—No!
I must stay resign’d,
DVD bangs—ideas
too literal plague my mind.
Aphrodite in floral-print,
(rose? tulip? how coquettish!)
covered by the tint
of your visor—my fetish!
Your wide-crop pants,
higher-rise than a condo,
bold patterns enchant—
polka dots, red on yellow.
I know not whether I should
delight in a laugh,
or squint my eyes good,

and try to find the giraffe.

III. My hungry heart!

Forever your patron,
my soul cannot forget
your stark red apron,
your luscious hairnet.
I envy the kimbap
you so tightly roll;
my heart, it throbs—
were it I, is my goal.
I adore your every part
As your lips part to speak,
Eeh-cheon-won”—still my heart!

The highlight of my week.

IV. Woman, my sweet!

Ne’er have I seen
a face more brighten’d
than yours—it gleams,
as you float by enlighten’d.
Your arms swing everywhere,
like reckless wrecking balls
as you soar through the air
on a treadmill in the fall;
in your track pants, so dark,
you are fit as a flower—
clad in pink neon parka,
walking three clicks per hour.
Bright sun? No matter!
Your umbrella’s in hand.
Rain need not patter;

Nor your skin be tann’d.

V. Oh, ajumma!

To tell you, I long,
of my love each day—
but we speak in separate tongues,
so my tongue keeps at bay.
The distance betwix’t us
is too great times four,
for which I love you thus,
all of you, all the more.


This piece was originally performed at Wordz Only, Busan’s big English spoken word thingy.

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