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seawater elegy

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Artwork by Kate Ma, Staff Artist

on my bedroom window, pieces of last night’s dream, of the new york city i know: the smell of grilled meat crawling into the street, the drawl of echoes i duck under, the knee-length jackets on nights when winter walks through the alleys, drunk.

drunk is what they call this, this land of the unfree scrawled on grocery lists. alone, i walk down each aisle, count the names: mother, second cousin, man who sits on M street, sons dotting the fence.

sons dot the fence, and your eyes can only stare at them longer, unable to make out the dissonance, the sea-brought chord struck with the bones of the ones who came before—america, america, america, free

freedom tastes simpler than this, my mother says, as if her childhood wasn’t locked by the sea. as if she could untaste its salt and climb the thin-bodied trees on the streets. outside, the sky is a basin. outside, the rain strikes the cobblestone as if to beat itself.


Esther Kim is a Korean-American writer from Potomac, Maryland. Her poetry is forthcoming or published in Diode, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and SOFTBLOW. In the summer of 2019, she participated in the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. A high school senior, she has been recognized by the Library of Congress, the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards as a National Gold Medalist, The Atlantic, and the Poetry Society of the UK.

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