Sun Yung Shin


“Sometimes the surface forms defy etymology.”
In place of reading, two doors open
away from each other. Door—paper—door—
One spine bends along a radius
of one. Finger bones like wingspan
of flightless bird. Travel
advisory to the following
Date on the red book from Korea, year prior to birth, folk tales, year of
gestation, folk tales, year of maternal body with double interior.
Only during wear does a house need two walls. A spare, a terminal—
White, the color of death, Western clothing.
“Korean contrasts structurally with European languages such as English in a
number of ways.”
Your sister’s spirit escapes through a pinprick in the paper wall.
The shaman kneels at her side as before a meal.
Eat the nail clippings of your sister; assume
her shape. Assume tiger, she-
bear, son of God.
Chew with your words closed.
“…not easy to draw boundaries in any language between what is a word
and what is not a word and Korean is no exception.”
In place of mother there was mother, both moving from crib to doorway,
from doorway to departure, from doorway to arrival—
Paper, white, the color of a virgin, Eastern
clothing. Both mothers moving
from flame to table, four
legs and a back.
1987 symmetry at Chicago bank teller, bulletproof mouth, a machine
translates money in money. Best rate of exchange:
Our palms break half-
open like fans, doors
on alien hinges—
“Over the years, the arguments for and against Chinese characters have been
repeated, attacked, and defended countless times, often with great passion.”
Go unspoken “Macro-Altaic.” Go unwritten family name.
Go flower, flutter, flag.
“the issue has become largely academic.” “It is difficult to hear the difference
between s and ss.”
At the market, a moon-
shaped comb sorts hair still
bound by scalp. In the curtain
forms a white path.

Sun Yung Shin
“Macro-Altaic” is from Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press, 2007).