When I left for Alabama I was told
Southern families are much like Korean families
& though I didn’t know exactly what was meant by this
I agreed. The first time I saw a magnolia tree
in complete blossom I didn’t know what it was.
Each magnolia, a skull dropped & smoothed in a river.
Each petal, a ladle for a milky stew. The expanse
of the flower, an expanse of a snowy field.
I cradled one back to rest in a jar. I admit
I’m interested in the most effective
way to delete my body. It’s an obsession
with conclusions. Chemical, I’m advised to think.
Sickness. Though it was a single flower out of many
I loved it incredibly. I forget each thing I put in a jar
is destined to die quickly. I left the house
with a plan. Inside the magnolia are chemicals
that defend against bacteria. Inside a schedule for saving.
I remind myself I’m innately equipped. I watched
the magnolia rust before I threw it away. Cracking between
my fingers, it left a trail from the table to the trash can. In Korea
we bury our dead under mounds. These bulbs
pimple the countryside. I’ve seen people
dressed in white standing over a mound.
Magnolias crying over their fruit. I was disappointed
in the magnolia’s lack of resistance.
It should’ve lived so much longer
though detached from its source. I can’t forgive
myself for going against nature, for carrying inside
a whiteness for dying.