My mother brings home from the Korean market YakGwa, in plastic molds when she is ready for us to talk again, and I listen to her explain why my words pass like slivered winds, my anger placated by the wheat flower saturated in honey, fried in the sesame oil that coats my fingers as I break off the eaves one by one at first, and eat the perfect circle in the middle, whole even without carefully crafted petals.
Waiting in the line of Jewel Osco our cart full of swollen fruit, bruised apples costing $4.99 instead of $1.99 cause a heated debate in broken up phrases, missing the, is, was, past and present participles, noun verb agreements, like the missing eaves of YakGwa, once placed on lacquered royal tables now held in plastic containers for $1.99.
When he runs my hair between his fingers, and says Chinese girls have smooth hair, I hold my tongue, my throat constrained in dense honey, in wheat flowers, unable to form the sharp vowels or hold the consonants for very long as I try to come up with the right retort but simply say two words I’ve mastered so far, Thank you.
So I devoured the alphabet, 26 petals with different sounds uneven shapes that aren’t molded to the shape of our tongues, so unlike artisan strokes that represent human, air, breath, and hold as much meaning in two syllables as five, But now there is no need to paint my words in honey, or fret over missing eaves, They run smoothly from my fingertips, polished in lustrous sesame oil.
-- Seowon Lee first spoke Korean, and first read and wrote English. She often bumps into people at Adlai E. Stevenson High School where she reads even as she walks down the hall and hopes that someday she will have all the right words for all the right moments. She is an editor for her school’s literary magazine The Wit.