Su Hwang


She packed a suitcase––not an immigrant bag the size of refrigerators, but for a quick getaway. Stuffing clothes between its slit maw, she tugged at the zipper as if she were pinching homemade dumplings. Please, please. Begging like spoiled dogs, my brother and I cried for her to stay. She corralled us inside, muting our sighs, turned to say this was for the best, we would be okay. Sahlang-heh. We cringed––we were not the kind of family that said “I love you” out loud. She reminded me to set the timer on the rice cooker, then got in her Ford Tempo––drove away. By dinner, she was back making kimchi jigae. They argued into the night; nothing had changed. Next time she packed a duffel bag, my brother and I stood as lookout, told her to never return. We would be fine, this was for the best––but she must not have been listening.

Hosanna Dry Cleaners

He spits chemical phlegm into metal
pails with a kind of reptilian vigor
to free the knot of unknown poisons.

Sah laeng haey yo

A foot to pedal to wheel to needle
stitching hems, mending tears, she pecks
away in a cave lined with cellophane ghosts.

Sah laeng haey yo

Counting colored pins––make-believe
wampum beads to trade for another
life.  Oh God, how have we sinned?

Sah laeng haey yo

Ironing press shoots scrims of steam,
odorless fumes of mushroom-shaped
fists, salt of their years dissolving into mist,

I shall bury them here.

Su Hwang was recently awarded the 2016-17 Minnesota Emerging Writers Grant from the Loft Literary Center and Coffee House Press In The Stacks Fellowship at Dickinson House in Belgium. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she grew up in New York then moved to San Francisco before transplanting to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, where she received her MFA in Poetry. She is also the recipient of the Michael Dennis Browne Fellowship in Poetry, the Academy of American Poets James Wright Prize, and her first poetry collection was a finalist for the 2017 Lena-Miles Wever Todd Book Prize with Pleiades Press. Her poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland,, and elsewhere. Su currently lives in Minneapolis.