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Issue 3.1

Winter 2023

Kim Stoker


This poem was inspired by a book about how so many original Korean place names have been lost and replaced by Sino-Korean words. In the index, there are descriptions of the book's photos. The simple repetitive nature of the descriptions invoked a kind of incantation to me that parlayed the sadness of what has been lost through language adaptation, but more specifically for this poem, how rock and stone get manipulated, destroyed, used, and transformed

There Used to Be Stones

from The Sad History of Our Nation’s Names (슬픈 우리 땅이름)


It is said there used to be stones.
Small stones gathered and became a rock.
A seonbawi blocked the road.

A stone is embedded in the middle of a paddy field.
There is a rocky spring.
Numerous stones are said to be on the sunny side.

Stones were dug out.
A dolmen stands nearby.

There is a streamside lined with stones.
The rocks stand side by side.
Water comes out between the rocks.

A bridge was made of stones.
Big wide stones are lined up one after another.
A pass consisted of stones.

There is a menhir.
There are stones there.

There used to be a house below the rock.
A weir was built with a pile of stones.
There is a big stone where boats were moored.

There used to be a stone pillar by the side of the road.
A tombstone is under the shade trees.
There was a pavilion made of stones.

There used to be a stone coffin.
Stones are on the bottom.

It was built with a pile of stones.
It was built upon natural stones.
It was built beside a rocky spring.

There were stones. There were stones. There were stones.
There were stones. There were stones. There were stones.

Bawi. Bawi. Seok.
There used to be rock.

Kim Stoker was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in the U.S. before returning to live in Korea as an adult. She now resides in the Mountain West. Stoker earned an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University and an MA in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi. Her poems are published in Pleiades, Nat. Brut, and forthcoming in Crab Creek Review.

Kim's Book Recommendations

The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) by Don Mee Choi
Bad Boats (Ecco Press, 1977) by Laura Jensen
Hoarders (Wave Books, 2021) by Kate Durban
Yi Sang Selected Works (Wave Books, 2020) edited by Don Mee Choi, translated by Jack Jung
Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2016) by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi

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