Leaving Seoul: 1953

By Walter K. Lew

We have to bury the urns,
Mother and I. We tried to leave them in a back room,
Decoyed by a gas lamp, and run out

But they landed behind us here, at the front gate.
It is 6th hour, early winter, black cold:
Only, on the other side of the rice-paper doors

The yellow ondol stone-heated floors
Are still warm. I look out to the blue
Lanterns along the runway, the bright airplane.

Off the back step, Mother, disorganized
As usual, has devised a clumsy rope and shovel
To bury the urns. I wonder out loud

how she ever became a doctor.
Get out, she says Go to your father: he too
Does not realize what is happening. You see,

Father is waiting at the airfield in a discarded U. S. Army
Overcoat. He has lost his hat, lost
His father, and is smoking Lucky’s like crazy. . .

We grab through the tall weeds and wind
That begin to shoot under us like river ice.
It is snowing. We are crying, from the cold

Or what? It is only decades
Later that, tapping the cold, glowing jars,
I find they contain all that has made
The father have dominion over hers.

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