There was something wild in me from birth,
legacy of you, the escaped mother.
When I was young, I dreamt of armageddon aftermath,
                fleeing empty suburbs barefoot.

Eighteen years later, I haven't run,
but I drive too fast, too much. Every new moon
I want to build a fire and step into it.

What seed did you sow:
Can I cut my blood from me
                like a weed?

I want to see your face.
You are, at the very least,
a more interesting bathroom mirror.

                Shim Young Eun
I always thought
my birth name was your gift. But it was a necessity
granted by the foster home,
little more than a barcode.


Mother, the man you loved was married.
If my stubborn blood's an inheritance from you,
I know how impossible a shut door looks.

It's been a year since a boy became
the bookend to my bedtime fairytales. He was married
to logic. I was the mistress, the mistake.

I can turn it into strings and tricks now,
but I wanted him like a finish line: the charisma
of a road going nowhere, a phone off the hook. I was a singer
and he was metal
                                   I could not make resonate
with the full pain of my lungs.

Once, I drove him home as constellations flooded
through the sunroof. I wooed him
                with my stoic neck.
He told me he changed his mind,
and I felt lucky for the rest of the summer.

Mother, we both know how fortune sticks in the throat
                like unchewed steak.
Perhaps your married man kissed you beneath
a streetlamp, gilded snow, and you too thought your story was lucky,
worthy of a movie, so you wrote a script.


I imagine we have the same eyes.
We stare at horizons and ache to cradle them
inside us, the searing expanse of desert sand.
We place our lovers to the height of constellations
and feel anointed as our humble earth turns,
imagining the stars to move about us.

Mother, do you see that to be the object
is the greater power? To make nebulas shudder
                with a flick of your eyelashes.

Let us deny every meteor.
Don't give us telescopes; let us kneel.


I too want married men, though they are not always
married to anything made of flesh:
                no, it is purely the thrill
of a turned glance, the vice of teeth and will.

But your grip was not muscled enough
to brand the words to his tongue.
You left him, left Seoul, and came back heavier
                with me.

I used to imagine this was resignation: death throes
renamed as dance.
But now I know the urge
to crack a hammer into every foundation, the need to burn down
every house you build. The need
to build houses made only of wood.


When I think of my parents,
I do not think of whatever man you held that night.

My father was not a man.

He was a subway
blind with a future, a train soaring south.

Mom, this was your gift:
my dubious fate
that I choose to believe
                we chose together.

I was the seed you planted in your vinegar victory,
the bitter alcohol that spurs the flame.
You gave me up, so you could admire me
like a horizon. Anything more attainable,
and you knew we would be doomed
to be kitchen counters,
table placemats to each other.

I was the best part of you,
                and you didn't give me a name.

About the Poet

Rachel Rostad is a sophomore at Macalester College, where she studies English, Anthropology, and human rights. She was adopted from Korea when she was four months old and was raised in Minnesota. She is a member of the Macalester College poetry slam team, which won second place at college nationals in 2012. She has performed poetry at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul, MN, as well as the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. This is her first publication.