HomeArchiveAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonateBlank page
Suji Kwock Kim



Once I was nothing: once we were one.  


In the unborn world we heard the years hurtling past,

whirring like gears in a giant factory—time time time— 


We heard human breathing,

thoughts coming and going like bamboo leaves hissing in wind,

doubts swarming like reconnaissance planes over forests of sleep,

we heard words murmured in love.


We felt naked bodies climb each other,

cleaving, cleaving,

as if they could ride each other to a country that can’t be named.

We felt bedsprings creak, felt the rough sailcloth of sheets dampen,

felt wet skin hold them together and apart.

What borders did they cross? What more did they want?

Bittersweet the sweat we tasted, the swollen lips we touched, the chafe of separate loins:

bittersweet the wine of one flesh they drank and drank.   


They called us over oceans of dream-salt,

their voices moving over the face of the waters like searchlights from a guardtower.

We hid, and refused to come out.

Their cries followed like police dogs snarling from a leash.

We ran through benzene rain, flew through clouds of jet-fuel.

We swam through hydrogen spume, scudded among stars numberless as sands.

We didn’t want to be born we didn’t want.

Blindly their hands groped for us like dragnets trawling for corpses,

blindly their hands hauled me like grappling hooks from the waves,

the foaming scalps of ghost-children laughing, seaweed-hiar dripping,

the driftwood of other children who might have been.

Out of chromosomes and dust,

cells of hope, cells of history,

out of refugees running from mortar shells, immigrants driving to power plants in Jersey,

out of meadowsweet and oil, the chaff of unlived lives blowing endlessly,

out of wishes known and unknown they reeled me in.  

I entered the labyrinth of mother’s body.

I wandered through nerve-forests branching in every direction,

towering trees fired by feeling, crackling and smoldering.

I rowed though vein-rivers.

I splashed in lymph-creeks between islands of glands.

I leaped rib to rib, rung to rung on the spine,

I swung from the ropes of entrails.

I played on organs, leaped through a fog of sweet oxygen in the lungs.

I clambered over tectonic plates of the skull, scrambling not to fall

down the chasms between, the mind-mountains where I could see no bottom.

I peered through sockets at the brain brewing in cliffs of bone

like a gigantic volcano, with its magma of memories, magma of tomorrows,

I could have played there forever, watching, wondering at the vast expanses inside,

wondering at the great chambers in the heart.

What machine made me move into the womb-cave, made me

a grave of flesh, now the engine of beginning driving forwards,

cells dividing, cells dividing:

now neurons sizzling, dendrites buzzing,

now arteries tunneling tissue like tubes hooked to an IV;

now organs pumping, hammers of hunger and thirst pounding,

now sinews cleaving, tendons lashing meat to bone:

meanwhile my skeleton welding, scalp cementing like mortar,

meanwhile my face soldered on, hardening like a mask of molten steel,

meanwhile my blood churning like a furnace of wanting,

meanwhile my heart ticking like a bomb—is-was, is-was:

then cold metal tongs clamped my forehad and temples,

then forceps plucked me from mother’s body like fruit torn from a tree:

then I heard a cry of pain—mine? not mine?—

then a scalpel’s snip snip against the umbilical cord, like razors scraping a leather strop:

soon I felt sticky with blood and matted fur, surgical lights blinding,

soon I felt tears burning my skin—Why are you crying? Why am I?—

I didn’t know who or what I was, only that I was,

each question answered by the echo of my voice alone: I, I, I.
           -from Notes from the Divided Country

Watch Ms. Kim red "Generation" as well as other poems from "Notes..."
View 22 drafts of "Generation" at Esopus Magazine

Purchase "Notes" here



Kim Addonizio 03-14-08


Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07


Alice Anderson 11-16-08


Renee Ashley 04-10-2010


Christianne Balk 07-27-07


Brian Barker 07-07-07


Polina Barskova 09-13-2010


Bruce Beasley 11-22-08


Nicky Beer 09-06-2010


Nicky Beer 08-22-08


Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09


Ciaran Berry 01-25-09


Linda Bierds 08-31-07


Kristin Bock 08-17-09


Brian Brodeur 03-29-09


Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010


Anne Caston 09-24-09


Anne Caston 02-27-2011


Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08


Nicole Cooley 04-05-09


Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011


Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08


Steve Davenport 03-29-2010


Cortney Davis 05-03-09


Todd Davis 11-01-2010


Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08


Karen Donovan 04-15-07


Mark Doty 04-11-08


Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010


Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010


Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010


B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09


Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011


Nick Flynn 10-04-2010


Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011


Carolyn Forche 09-21-07


Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011


James Galvin 02-23-07


Margaret Gibson 01-24-10


Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08


Dana Gioia 08-23-2010


Eugene Gloria 09-20-08


Louise Gluck 03-17-2010


Kevin Goodan 08-29-08


Matthew Graham 11-28-2010


Robert Grunst 11-16-07


Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011


Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07


John Haines 11-01-2011


Donald Hall 02-10-07


Jeff Hardin 08-10-07


Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011


Brooks Haxton 03-08-10


Seamus Heaney 09-11-09


Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010


Bob Hicok 10-25-2011



Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09


Lynda Hull 05-20-07


Henry Israeli 01-23-2011


Major Jackson 05-02-2010


Mark Jarman 10-19-08


Rodney Jones 10-26-09


Barbara Jordan 02-02-09


Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011


Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08


Jane Kenyon 04-01-07


James Kimbrell 04-07-2010


James Kimbrell 01-19-07


Galway Kinnell 11-09-07


Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07


Phil Levine 06-03-07


Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08


Larry Levis 04-04-08


Larry Levis 02-08-2010


Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08


Corey Marks 10-03-07


Adrian Matejka 04-18-08


Davis McCombs 01-18-08


Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011


Michael McGriff 02-22-09


Jay Meek 01-16-2010


Anne Michaels 01-18-09


Nils Michals 02-29-08


Keith Montesano 12-12-2010


Malena Morling 05-12-08


Simone Muench 02-08-08


Sharon Olds 02-22-07


Sharon Olds 10-19-07


Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010


Eric Pankey 09-07-07


Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07


Ed Pavlic 09-28-07


Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010


Lucia Perillo 12-04-09


Catherine Pierce 04-18-2011


Donald Platt 02-15-08


Joshua Poteat 03-13-2011


Joshua Poteat 11-3-09


Wyatt Prunty 02-20-2011


Dean Rader 03-07-2011


Amy Randolph 03-01-09


Robert Randolph 12-12-09


Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010


Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010


David Roderick 12-07-07


Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08


Steve Scafidi 10-09-09


Jim Schley 10-19-09


Tim Seibles 10-08-07


David Shumate 10-26-08


Dave Smith 04-10-09


Katherine Soniat 11-30-07


Gary Soto 03-23-07


Mark Sullivan 08-28-09


Frank Stanford 10-25-2010


Mark Strand 02-22-2010


Mark Svenvold 03-23-09


Robert Thomas 05-03-2011


Brian Turner 05-13-07


Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011


Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07


Connie Voisine 10-1-2011


Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07


David Wevill 03-27-2011


C.K. Williams 05-25-07


Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07


Charles Wright 01-27-07


Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010


Robert Wrigley 08-17-07


Robert Wrigley 04-09-07