Sung Yim

we got eaten alive in your hometown


there are 2 mosquito bites behind my knee

which is a place i wish you kissed more


scratching feels good like doing something you’re not supposed to

when you know it’ll probably be fine


you don’t read my work much & i wonder what difference that makes

but only the way i wonder how my life would be different

if i still let everyone call me Cindy


what if your dead uncle was trans & no one called you a faggot

what if Decatur, IL weren’t such a hellhole


& that Holiday Inn we fucked at had less flies

buzzing around the breakfast buffet


what i’m trying to say is i’m sorry/you suffered

by that i mean thank you/for learning kindness anyway


sometimes disgust make me cry because it makes me feel

lovely again


the body is strange in that all people have one

when some people can’t afford to keep theirs


i think ribcages are written about way too often

& so are hearts/collarbones/wrists/cunts


we don’t talk about the bumpy parts of nipples or armpits enough

but maybe i’m being a boring contrarian


it’s just i once spread you open & stared at your asshole

while you apologized for how dirty/hairy/smelly you are


you apologized for your blooming hemorrhoids

while everything grew still & made sense in the quiet

& i didn’t think there was anything wrong with you


what i’m trying to say is we all have an asshole

by that i mean it made me feel lovely & even ok


what i’m trying to say is the best peace we can know is boredom




family medical history chart


how come i tell twitter my pronouns before people i grew up with

i mean i guess there’s nothing to lose but how do you lose what you don’t have


well the closet is more of a white people thing

like how do i fit trans between Shaman & Annexation

when my grandmother saw Japanese soldiers take her grandmother away


how come my author bio says they/them/their & queer all over

when my mom still calls me her/daughter


i mean i don’t let her read it & anyway

the most heartbreaking thing is nothing to do with my gender

but everything to do with hers


what do you think motherhood means

to a Korean woman who didn’t want it in 1989


what do you think it means to want as a woman

in 1989 when your mother recalls flashes of war

& her mother’s last words were ones of terrible suffering

but nothing to do with the tumors scabbing her life into tatters


how come i have all this forgiveness to share

but never share it with anyone who asked

i guess it’s easier to love some people from a distance


3 years ago & it will be 4 in a year & 5 after that

i’m passing blood clots the size of golf balls into a toilet


somewhere in all that blood & mucus

full of possibility/names/the gleam of a gender

there’s another universe sparkling with birthday cake & wars

the heartbreak of an alcoholic father who can’t stop screaming


who leaves the room before the Planned Parenthood nurse asks

with a pen in her hand if i’m being pressured into the abortion

but there’s no box on her form for being pressured into pregnancy


so i tongue the dissolving tablets & wait for my body to bleed itself free

for the painkillers to do their magic


but the real magic is starting 2 decades ago as my mother

picks out hoop earrings after meeting my father

& takes the only picture i have of her smiling




i think up a series of irrelevant questions during phone sex


i wish i could tell you what my body means but

i don’t even know what it says.


the more times you tell a lie the more you think it’s true

but not every lie is untrue & not every truth is real either.


i’m telling this white man what a bad little girl i am

& i get off mainly on embarrassment.


when you’re not a girl being a bad one sounds true

so he’s stroking his cock for $1.99/a minute.


i don’t judge him harshly or at all

i wish i could tell you more but what if you never asked.


i want to tell you more but what if tomorrow your aunt dies

or one of us falls down the stairs.


the truth is i’ve been staring my cunt down in the mirror

determined to bend it into warmth & sweetness

the way artists tell it.


the truth is it’s sour. the truth is

it bleeds & one time it smelled like bad yogurt for a week


but i didn’t get it checked out by a doctor

because i was embarrassed. the truth is i keep lists


of ways to tell you my body has no straight answers

to give but you’ve asked it no questions


i think about how i could chew a nail clean off before coming

clean once & how i could snort the white off a toilet without feeling

dirty once & how the truth is sad but that’s ok


how i’m sitting in a bowl of sunlight

with my toes dipping into Lake Michigan when you kiss me


the water is warm but there are dead seagulls out there

& floating debris


i can’t make that beautiful no matter how much

i love you & nothing has to be anyway



Sung Yim is a poet, essayist, and B.A. candidate of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Contrary, Kweli, The James Franco Review, and Hooligan Magazine. They are a bilingual South Korean immigrant residing in Illinois.


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