Three Poems

by Ruth Minah Buchwaid


 
 
 "Nights" by  Stephanie Hsu  |  ISSUE ONE

"Nights" by Stephanie Hsu ISSUE ONE

 
 



I

There was a point I thought skin was made of glass. My mother’s looked like porcelain,
especially in the summer. July in Incheon entailed humidity that my grandparents’ small,
air-conditioned building blocked out the second you stepped in it — every time we returned from
a day trip, it was like stepping into an icebox that made you feel like royalty. I’d fall asleep with
my mother’s soft arms wrapped around me, while the fan ran throughout the night. I hated seeing
the breeze move my arm hair and have no physical effect on her nonexistent body hair. I even
grew jealous of my grandmother’s saggy, hairless skin, but my mother told me that my hair was
my protection. I told her it made me feel like an animal.
 

II

I spent most days looking down the street at a paddy field little dogs ran in and out of, as well as
into the grocery across the street from my grandparents’ apartment. All of my American values
were forgotten the summers I was there. Those dogs would be considered purse dogs in America,
but they were stray in Korea. People didn’t look down on them — it was easy to look at these
dogs because you could forgive them; people fed and stopped to pet them. This was different
from sympathy. Sympathy meant pity or relatability, but these dogs didn’t have either.

 

III

I looked at them go into the grocery across the street. On especially hot nights, I would go in to
stick my head in the freezer, digging for different flavor ice pops my family and I wanted. I’d
always run to make sure I saw these dogs, but never did. They disappeared with the sun. I missed
seeing them from my grandparents’ icebox window in the bright of day. They reminded me that I
wasn’t an animal. I was also porcelain.

 

 
 

You People


I

When you buy your coffee, the person in front of you on line asks where you’re from. You tell
them and they say, Oh, but like, where are your parents from. You tell them that your dad is from
the same place you’re from and that your mom is from where she is from. They say, Oh, I know
someone from there. I love the food there and smile and leave. Later, a security guard at the
academic building you swipe into asks the same thing. Where are you from. You tell them. They
say, Oh, I would’ve thought that you were from somewhere else. I can never tell you people apart.

II

You grow up in front of your television. You like all the people you watch on that television.
They don’t look like you. They don’t get asked where they are from. You notice that no one is
really asked this the same way you are. They have different problems from yours, so you ignore
that fact. You like their problems. You continue watching.

III

Where are you from.
Where are you from.
Where are you from.

Where you are from.
Where you are from.
Where you are from.

 

 
 

Teeth


I couldn’t hear my mother’s face hit our small driveway outside, but I can now. The time I was
nine at the Jersey Shore, where the sand felt like a giant, grainy bed I let my blood seep into, and
my mother comes into the car, face red and knees scratched up and white boys’ laughter heard
through the open sliver of the window.

When I went to the dentist as a child, all I can remember are chapped lips spread open and a
substance I only knew tasted like marshmallow and was supposed to keep my teeth clean in my
mouth to distract me from the pain my mother would feel years later.

The insurance might cover it.

The insurance might cover it.

The insurance might cover it.

What’s your quota?

My mother always loved flowers. It took time for them to grow, which her teeth could no longer
do.

 

WRITER'S BIO:

Ruth Minah Buchwald is a writer, living in Brooklyn and attending the Pratt Institute. She was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in New Jersey, which she wishes you would stop shitting on. This is her first time being published, which she is really excited about and will probably celebrate by watching The Sopranos, eating ice cream cake, and/or looking at pictures of dogs having a good time. Twitter and Instagram: @ruthbuchwald.