The Outskirts of Balsam Street/Above Banpo Daegyo

Minha Kyun

4 minute read

Tune In
The Outskirts of Balsam Street 

Midnight, fireworks flare above the Fraser River  
as their sounds echo through Kerrisdale,  
and into my room. Midnight  
on the first day of January, starting in the late winter  
with branches of magnolia, I am left out by the Vancouver sky  
pouring foreign remnants. I misremember my 14  
as too many changes piled up and on ticking sound 
of time passing, was going to pass.  


Silence is set by who I am, lost between countries  
confusing my homeland and the language  
I once spoke. My comfort places now  
and again: a picture of my family in colors  
of blue and gray hanging above my bookshelves,  
books whiffing dust, piles of letters  
from my friends; five minute walk from home  
the church, stained glasses, singings  


of hymn—in words I missed  
and it soothes me to empty out the airplane  
still floating in me and a country  
I never knew I’de be in. So  
it was midnight: magnolia tree  
between home and church, leaves glazing  
under winter blows, howling of winds, 
the breaths, the blooms, the beginnings, to begin. 

Above Banpo Daegyo  

Air outside the airport  
feels damp and heavy. Wheels  
of my suitcase roll out whirling  
around my ears and into the trunk.  
My mother holds my hand like she had  
years ago when we first arrived  
in the States. Four years old with hair  
coating my shoulder, I was scared  
of people speaking words I’ve never  
heard before. The only ones  
I knew, “hello,” “yes,” and “Virginia.”  

                      	   Now memories froth  
upon the word “Virginia,” 
water sprinkling from the hose  
my mother used to garden, snow layering  
on the window sill, and an apple tree  
I could see from my porch—reddening  
until my sister and my brother and I  
climbed on it to collect  
every one of them.  


                      I remember loving  
the fireflies between cranberry bushes  
and the closet we hid in for hours  
until one of us fell asleep. Some nights  
dusted in stars glowing so brightly, now 
I know it is called satellites.  


                              Ride home from  
the Incheon airport and I hear the winter breaths  
frosting away into the air. Droplets that floated  
in puddles of the Kenilworth Garden  
and joined the Pacific, are now gliding on my window  
as my eyes follow a swish of the Han River  
flowing up towards our home.  


The light glints  
on the water streams, I dream  
of the River on the oldest day I recall, sunlight  
sticking onto leaves above my head  
and my eyes reflecting the river  
curving in and out       casting away.