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Dear my visitors: Subliminally, I’ve been chasing the illusions of peace and beauty in all seasons of my life. Miraculously, I’m given a bouquet of poems, prose, a novel (Nayoung’s Journey), images and poem videos. The following are the links to the literary magazines that have published some of my works, as well as my YouTube videos. As a bilingual writer, my book in Korean, "천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)," which is a collection of poems, stories, and images, has been published as of May 25, 2022. Thank you so much and the very best to you all! Therese


Dear my distinguished visitors:

With my warmest wishes to you, I’d like to present a poem remembering the forgotten in the season of celebration.

"천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)," a book of poetry, stories (in Korean except for three poems), and images.


A Thousand Magnolias book

Image provided by Daewonsa,

the publisher of  “천송이 목련화

(A Thousand Magnolias)”


Photo Credit: Konrad Monroe

Photo Credit: Konrad Monroe

Dear my visitors around the world:

     Subliminally, I have been chasing the illusions of peace and beauty in all seasons of my life, in the sun and moon rising from the East Sea and the lonely island of Dokdo of my old country, over the Pacific and the New World where rainbows looked more stunning and colorful beckoning me to come. I have journeyed through the age of innocence, delicious happiness, war-ravaged, toiling with work, fleeting romance, pleasure and pain of marriage and divorce, and now piled up with years of my age of an ancient woman with a mess of silver hair, impersonating an old pigeon.

     While studying in Seoul, Korea, I fell in love with English and French for their beauty of flexibility and fluidity. Although my French fell behind, it introduced me to sublime French impressionism of Monet, Manet, Flaubert, Emile Zola, and Baudelaire’s “Paris Spleen,” to name just a few. While studying English literature I discovered Hemingway, DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chekov, Tolstoy, and Rainer Maria Rilke in English translation, as well as the music of Bach, Chopin,  Mozart, on and on. At the same time, I’ve retained my native language, Korean, with its purity from an archaic culture, in which I was born, raised, educated, and loved.

     Miraculously then, came the publication of  “천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)” this May, which I humbly present here with my little figurines, including Korean ceramic vases and a mini bronze bell in celebration of this debut. “천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)” is a bouquet of flowers I’ve gathered from the Garden of Arts and Literature indicated above, which also enabled me to write in English as well.  

    Referring myself as an “ancient woman” has a double entendre in that I remember the legacy of my Old Country where the world’s very first movable metal type was invented in 1234 in Heungdeoksa Buddhist Temple in Chongju City, known as the city of education and culture in South Korea.

    Thanks to this printing technology, numerous books of Buddhist teachings have been published for centuries, the first of which was called “Jikji,”  meaning straightforward and honest communication in the teaching of Seon meditation.  During the golden age of Korean Buddhism, countless artifacts and national treasures had been produced before they were looted and pillaged by Japan during their invasions culminating into the brutal annexation of Korea from 1910 through 1945. In September 2001 UNESCO formally designated “Jikji” as the very first manuscript printed in the world’s oldest metalloid type in Korea.

    As the author of “A Thousand Magnolias,” I owe profoundly to those voiceless and courageous Korean immigrants I met while working as a court interpreter in New York and elsewhere, for the resilience and grace shown in their plight for American dream. But first and foremost, I owe to the memory of my late parents’ undying love and sacrifice, which is the spirit of this book.

    I’ve gifted the book to my extended family and friends living near and far and donated three books to the Asian language acquisition department of New York Public Library, and I hope to gift more to Korean language departments in universities or libraries outside Korea, if opportunities come by.

    Dear cherished visitors, thank you so much for your kind attention given to this post, and let me close with a title poem, “A Thousand Magnolias,” sending you my endless blessings to you and your loved ones!


A Thousand Magnolias


Palms gathered onto my chest

I remember Mama holding me close

to her bosom.


When I became a toddler

papa gave me piggyback rides.


Now grown into a life of my own

in another time and place too far

to turn back,


I’m cradling a thousand magnolias

that have never been sent.


© Therese Young Kim

June 7, 2022

천송이 목련화


지금 내 두 손 가슴에 언고

어머님 젖가슴에 나 꼬-옥

품어 안아주시던 그때를 기억하네


나 좀더 자란 아기었을때

아빠등에 말태워 주시곤하던


이제 내 생활터전 잡아놓고

다시 돌아가기에는 너무나 머얼리

떨어진 이 싯점, 한 외지에서


아직도 보내지못한 천송이 목련화를

부등켜 안고 서있는 나.


Poem, translation, photo

© Therese Young Kim


The Diving Sun (Ember of Love) by Therese Young Kim

The Ember of Love - Meditation in the Sun

Dear My Distinguished Web Guests:

   It has been nine months since the Coronavirus pandemic took us the prisoners of epic tragedy around the world, which feels more like nine years.  But time rushes by as always and we are here like homecoming heroes from a war that is still raging. It makes us wonder what it is to have a normal life in the way we used to live, like breathing the air without thinking of it, or enjoy the sun shine on our bare faces, or walk around without distancing the strangers.

  A staggering number of deaths have occurred every day, patients dying all alone, separated from their loved ones.  Feelings of pain and grief are universal while it can be self-healing with passage of time, as the memory of love ripens as years go by.  I know because I was there once, albeit a long time ago, under different circumstances.
                
        ∞∞∞

   When the sun is golden, I, like a sunflower, would breeze out of my cluttered apartment for the day. After fussing over the breakfast, I would check the email, make a call or two before getting dressed. Then I would pack my oversized laptop in my wheeled luggage with padded layers to protect from the bumpy Manhattan sidewalks, together with a small bag stuffed with my leggings for a gym visit.

   My laptop holds the world of my poetry, stories, and a novel, ‘Nayoung’s Journey,’ that were written years ago and still being edited or rewritten on and off. Some were conceived while I was roaming around, listening to the rhythm and cadence of the city crowd and the melodious sounds of foreign languages brushing by my ear.

                                                                                 ∞∞∞
Therese in the Sunlight by Konrad Monroe
    After some forty-five minutes I arrive at my familiar sidewalk in Midtown behind the ivory-colored sidewall of a fashion store. The sunlight so toasty-warm, beaming down from above the skyscrapers before cascading onto this sidewall of a fashion store, I come to a full stop to embrace the sunlight whole and complete. I lift my face toward the sky with eyes closed, as if ready for a sun-kiss.

    I know I will be heading for a fast-food restaurant around the corner, where the lunch crowd will thin out by 2:30, leaving me a quiet space to sit down with my laptop over lunch, together with few remaining customers sitting like monks in prayer, solemnly staring at their smartphones well after lunch.

    As I bask in the sun with my luggage close by me, I see the sea of egg-yolk-pink reflected from the sun hitting my closed eyelids. I listen to the footsteps of the pedestrians passing me, or to their singsong chatting.

    In the sun, I remember my last visit with my umma (mamma) in my old country, S. Korea, when she was dying from a prolonged illness. She had been hospitalized for a few weeks before they announced they had done all they could and sent mamma home as she wished. We knew what it meant, but no one talked about it, except for surrounding her with love and care. The night before, a priest was called in for a prayer. As her pain turned worse, a priest was called in for a prayer and she was given a strong doze of a painkiller, which enabled her sleep through the night like an angel.

    The gentle rays of the early morning sun filled up the room where I was sitting at the foot of my umma, listening to her deep regular breathing as if she were making up for all those sleepless nights of pain.  Despite the damaged liver beyond repair, her delicate features still retained the elegance of a quiet beauty, like the chrysanthemum in the late autumn field.
Married at 20, she and papa lived for the love and sacrifice for their seven children, and now mama was dying at seventy-four years of age, my beloved umma!  Who is this martyr of love, who had given me the freedom to leave the cocoon she and papa had built, in search of my selfish dreams in the West.  But she waited with her undying trust for me, to be with her in her last moment that came all too soon.   

                                                                                    ∞∞∞ 

    I remember her being sick when I was nine-years old. I don’t remember why she was sick but determined to heal her I climbed up a cherry tree in the garden and picked the sweet dark berries and brought mamma a bowl of wild cherries. I’m not sure if mamma ate them, perhaps a few, but she was up soon and busy around the house, lighting up my spirit again and warming up the entire house with her loving energy. Gripped by a regret that I no longer believed I can cure mamma with cherries, all I could do is to be there and hang onto mamma’s dear life!
   
   Her breathing now starts to quicken, eyelids gently rippling over her closed eyes, as if the painkiller is starting to wane, stirring her up. I start to panic, terrified that she might get attacked by the unbearable pain again. Gripped by fear I whisper like a prayer, “Umma— if you’re going to suffer in pain again, please, gently fly away to heaven like a butterfly, umma—”  

   To my utter surprise, as if she had heard my plea and trusted my words, she slightly raised her feeble hands giving one long sigh and dropped them to her sides. Then her breathing stopped in the speed of light gone, into the stillness of air, into the silence of time frozen, her face draped in the veil of tenderness and peace divine. In that stillness, her spirit seemed to be floating away like a butterfly invisible.

   Gripped by a guilt for what I had said, I held her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze for her forgiveness. Why had I not asked her to stay one more day, one more week, or promise her I would take care of her if she woke up?  But would I? Could I? Her hand in mine felt silky warm, almost fiery warm like the last spark of a dying ember that would stay forever warm for me.

   Through her warm hand in mine, she seemed to tell me not to fear, for she is in comfort and peace in another world where pain is no more.  In that stillness, she was telling me that I have only one life to live, so I should never stop pursuing my dreams till I find a place in the world she has never visited, however a humble one it may be, as her brave child, her beloved one…. I knelt and started to pray for mama.
                                                                                  ∞∞∞

     After a three-day wake surrounded by the family, friends and relatives, mamma was buried in the sunny side of a hillside cemetery.  I then left my grieving papa, brothers, and sisters, to return to my job in America, fall in love, get married and divorced, all in the span of twenty-five years that followed, while papa and three brothers passed one after another to join mamma in heaven.

   Standing in the sun with a fresh sense of guilt for my selfish solitary existence, I close my eyes tight against the sun, which intensifies its warm rays onto my face, consoling me, like mamma’s warm hand in mine. Some seven minutes gone and feeling deliciously inebriated by the sun, I open my eyes and start rolling away my trunk for a warm cup of coffee and a paper plate of eggplant parmesan or a fluffy grilled cheese sandwich.  After lunch, I will open my laptop and start a silent discourse with my heroine, Nayoung.  

   Today I must tell Nayoung about mamma, not about her death, but about the maiden girl called Chinju (Pearl), whose life was paved by courage and resilience while she was persevering through the most brutal Japanese annexation and the tragic Korean War.  I must tell her story, for it is the only way to help Nayoung reclaim her lost American dream by remembering her roots and mamma’s ember of love.
                                                                                  ∞∞∞   

My Distinguished Web Visitors, we all have stories of pain, grief and love, each as unique as the other, regardless of nationality, color of skin, rich or poor, which is the beauty of one life we have on this planet.  It is why we should persevere through these tragic times, doing what we can to build better future together where kindness and humanity reigns!

GLORIOUS NEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES!

December 2020 © Therese Young Kim


To Be Beautiful Again

     The store is bright with florescent light, showering shelves of designer perfumes, cosmetics, medicines, toiletries and whatnot.

     An elderly couple walk in. The frail, stooped man appears to be in his early nineties as he walks clinging onto the arm of the foot-taller woman in her late seventies. She is a blonde with her hair teased up like a cotton candy. Remnants of certain contours suggest she was once stunning, although her face has sagged into ample pouches around her chin and neck. Heavy swirls of rouge and uneven purple lipstick appear to have been applied in poor light.

     The woman’s leopard hat projects a slightly decadent chic. Her black-leather boots have two-inch heels and creep tightly over her thick calves, revealing the lumpy knees below her tight buttery- leather black skirt.

     The man’s over sized overcoat suggests he has shrunken considerably over the years as he stands before the sales counter with his lady, who is looking up at the sales clerk with a great anticipation. They seem glued to one another, straining up the neck rather painfully.

”What d’you want, ma’am?” asks the sales clerk, peering down the couple.

”I want a Lancôme lipstick!”

     The sales clerk considers the woman’s purple lips and then pulls a tube of lipstick from the Lancôme section, removing the cap and holding up the exposed stick between her red-enameled fingertips.

“Is this the color you want, Ma’am?”

The woman narrows her eyes, and nearly sniffs the lipstick.

     Looking exasperated by having stood for a considerable moment on his unsteady legs, the man turns his thin neck painfully toward his lady, as if he were dying to know the lipstick is the color she wants.

”HOU-nee, eez this leap-stick what you wan--?” From such a frail looking man, the voice sounds surprisingly loud.

     Ignoring his question, the woman continues staring at the lipstick, seemingly suspended in indecision or in a reverie of some kind. The old man waits patiently in silence like a loyal dog, as if all that mattered in his remaining life was to find his lady the perfect lipstick.

     Finally, she flutters her eyelashes overloaded with black mascara, as if she got a solution, opens her thin purse, and fishes out the old tube of lipstick. In her trembling hand, she brings the tube’s purple nub near the tube in the clerk’s hand and firmly announces.

”I want ex - AC - tly the color of this one!”

”Ma’am, this is in fact almost ex - AC - tly the color, except that the company has changed your color a little over the years.”

     The woman tips her head to the side. Her man leans and moans into her ear, ”HOU-nee, she tells it’s almost ex - AC - tly the same color!” He then watches her purple lips longingly, waiting for assent.

     He waits. And he waits, aware that she is determined to remain beautiful. A glimmer of hope lights up his blue eyes as if he was assured that there will be one more night to cuddle and be cuddled, breath to breath.

(Published in ROSEBUD as a Gardner winner, Issue 40)

By Therese Young Kim
New York, NY
Copyright © 2014


 



Behind the Blinds


     The autumn sun is sinking behind a jagged Manhattan skyline like a huge Halloween pumpkin bleeding into a plum-pink twilight. Standing with a cup of honeyed jasmine tea behind my window on the top floor of a ten-story redbrick building, browned with the time, I’m listening to the seamless procession of Chopin’s Preludes streaming from my CD player in. The music, so elegant, languorous, and suffused with the colors of French impressionist paintings, I feel I’m in heaven in my cluttered studio apartment.Behind the Blinds

     Just when I drank up the bottom nectar of the sweet tea remaining in the cup, and the music changing into a waltz, I notice a man moving behind a window of the high-rise twice taller than my building—taller, but it looks one dimensional and artless on its modern façade. There is another building separating us, which is a story lower than mine with a quaint-looking water tank, which looks like a plank turret standing on one side of the roof. Diagonally behind that tank, I can only see him in fuzzy profile from a distance, but clearly enough to recognize the man’s physique.

     His large picture window standing somewhat parallel to my smaller one, I remember seeing him a few times behind that window before. Built stocky, he has closely-knit thick eyebrows under a crown of dark bushy hair over massive shoulders ― massive, but not in an athletic way. I imagine he may have patches of mossy chest hair that extend to the back of his shoulders and upper arms.

     I now see him slowly pacing around the room, his frame a bit hunched forward like a bear looking for prey, clasping and unclasping his hands as if consumed in some sort of dark scheme. As I feel his intensity spilling on me through that distance, I narrow my glare over him like a sly fox. Dressed in a pair of dark baggy slacks and a loose shirt without a tie, I presume he could be a divorce lawyer, an accountant, or a theatrical director.

     Before I know, he stops pacing and bends over a large briefcase on the floor, and pulls out what looks like a brown folder. As if he were aware of being watched by someone over his shoulder, but not once looking out the window, he moves ever cautiously. If he did look in my direction, I don’t think he could detect my small frame snug behind my partly drawn flimsy curtain. After a bit of hesitation, he sticks the folder under his armpit and walks to an adjoining room, which appears to be a bedroom with its own window.

     In that room, I notice a small figure seated in an armchair. By the brownish long wavy hair flowing over the side of the chair, it is a young woman. He now walks to her, bends over, and says something. The woman nods, gets up from her chair, and walks to the window. She rolls down a blind, walks to the living room, and rolls down that window’s blind as well.

     Although I no longer see them behind those closed blinds, I know that she is not the tall lithesome blonde I used to see in that apartment over the past six months or so. Every once in a while I’d notice the lovely blonde when she was there. She used to move around the dinner table behind the window, entertaining guests, occasionally waving her bare arms while she talked to someone, just like in a silent movie. Whatever the occasion, the couple usually had about six people around the table under a large chandelier that glowed in multiple hues, reminding me of a small cruise boat floating on the Hudson River on summer nights. I wasn’t even aware he had blinds then, since no one ever rolled them down.

     But tonight, there is a new lady in that apartment ― a shorter brunette with a fuller figure ― and the blinds are lowered as if all that had been going on with his blonde was to be obliterated by his new brunette, who hurled down the blinds, like the curtain failing at the end of a play. All I see now is the pale metallic sheen from the closed blinds, reflecting the frailty of the night, of the human psyche, mocking me and my Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu.

"Behind the Blinds" was published in ROSEBUD #59 in 2015.  It also appears at Tuck Magazine link: External link opens in new tab or windowhttp://tuckmagazine.com/2017/04/05/fiction-8/)

By Therese Young Kim
New York, NY
Copyright © 2014






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