Featured Poet, Melanie Hyo-In Han

Ukombozi Hospital

Bright, fluorescent lights, blinking

on and off. Disinfectant so strong,

its punching acidity, too clean.

Sirens wail in and out, and somewhere

to my right is a hysterical mom.

Her child was attacked by a dog.

Dad brings over a plate of

cafeteria fries, side of ketchup

dripping down the side. Blood,

dripping down Mom’s forehead.

Shattering glass, shattered trust.

Echoing of the knife on tile

as it slipped from her hand

as she slipped down, sinking.

Dad’s heavy hand on my shoulder,

weight in his words of empty

promises of never going back

to Grandma’s. Words that can’t heal.

But this is a

pain I enjoy:

white hot

needles, tingling

first my right foot,

then my legs as

scalding water

swirls greedily

around my belly

and my chest,

finally closing

a hand around

my throat as

I sink. I think

about the irony

of me in this

claw-foot tub

soaking in artificial

eucalyptus oil

as real, live

eucalyptus trees

char to ash,

their oils igniting

and releasing

waves of fire.

And if I really

tried hard and

remembered

the memories

I blocked out

of the many

droughts I

lived through

as a child

and the fires

I put out

as a teen,

I would maybe

do something

more, but

right here,

I just drop

beneath the

silence of the

still water.

To Miss Tranquist

I wonder what you might be thinking, looking at the little Asian girl with dark hair and darker eyes in a sea of blonde hair and blue eyes. Your head does a 30 degree tilt as you pause at what I am sure must be my name.

“Uhhhh, Hai-o een?”

“It’s H-yo In.”

“Ah, okay, thank you.”

Your face relaxes, mouth slackening as you move down the roster and see other names you can pronounce.

And throughout the school year, you somehow always seem to find someone else to call on even when I shoot my hand up before anyone else in the class, and maybe you don’t think I notice, but I’m the only student you never say “Hello” to by name.

I wish you’d try.

You were the reason behind my many fights with my parents who kept insisting “Hyo In” was a beautiful name, but I didn’t care that it meant “wisdom from dawn” or that it represented my family, my heritage, my culture, my language. All I ever wanted was to be called on without hesitation and be greeted every day by name.

It’s been over fifteen years since I started going by “Melanie,” a name that means “dark,” because that’s what I am to you. You can finally say it without feeling embarrassed; I hear it often and from the lips of many people, and I guess I like it.

But at what cost?

Houses and Homes

You had spent your entire life in one home:

your mom’s slightly run-down condo in a sleepy town in New Hampshire where you grew up eating inauthentic General Tso’s chicken at Ginger House and picking up sesame bagels with cream cheese at Audrey’s,

knowing

everything

about your town,

your home, which step

in your staircase creaked,

the exact shape of the burn

mark on the left side of your fridge.

Every space, every item in your home had a memory attached to it. The mahogany closet in your basement where you used to curl up at age 4 to play hide-and-seek with your three sisters, the bookshelf you broke then repaired at age 10, the ugly green quilt you received from your grandma at age 14 that covers the bed in your room, in your home, in your town.

And I was envious of you because by the time I met you

I had lived in over 25 places in 8 different countries.

I couldn’t remember which of these were homes and which of these were houses,

never

knowing

enough about

the houses, the towns,

the countries I lived in since

I was busy packing and unpacking,

adjusting and readjusting to new places.

Every move, every change had an emotion attached to it. The very long
awaited thrill of leaving the Cockroach House, the bittersweet sadness of saying goodbye to the Mango Tree House, the sheer joy of moving into the picturesque Jacaranda House, the comings and goings and formings of new memories, but never with feelings of rootedness or permanence.

So maybe that’s what the biggest difference between you and me was:

You felt a home in me but I only felt a house in you. 

About the contributor

Melanie Han is an avid traveler and a poet, born in Korea, grew up in East Africa, and currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing in Boston. She won an award from Boston in 100 Words. Her poetry appears in several magazines and online journals. During her free time, she can be found eating different ethnic foods, studying languages, or visiting new countries.

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