The Tower Journal

J. H. Yun

Fish Head Soup

(This poem has previously been published in The Winter Tangerine Review)

Remember this. Fish head soup
should be eaten on the hottest summer day.
Pungent and spicy, it will make you sweat—
keep you cool.

Boil it in a big pot with peppers and leeks
and minari leaves. Eat it cross legged
out on the weathered wooden porch like we did.

There is little of the head which cannot
be devoured. Pull away the cheeks,
the meat there is tender and sweet.
The eyes should be shared.
Suck the skin off the sheets of cartilage
and when picking flesh off the jaw
avoid snagging your thumb on their teeth.

Grandma sorts bones on the splayed newspapers.
There’s been another shooting in Oakland
And she lays the prickly spines across the obituaries.
This is how we go, she says,
points at the picked clean faces.


There are so many ways
our hurts manifest themselves.
Your body is no exception.

When I first noticed, I was ten
watching you apply your skin
from glass bottles, liquefied and frigid—
hiding the heaviness seeping grayly
from the thick lashed bottoms of your eyes.

Mama, since then I’ve understood
that your body is wrought with them.
Your hurts are worn
like a black bracelet overgrown by skin.
I bear it also. But mine are quiet,
deep inside now, and so singular.
Everything I know, I know from you.


time dissolves too quick
the man she married.
he was the one who found her barefoot,
parched and a little horrified there
cradled in the hungry mouth between north
and south. he looked very american as he
bound the cracked landscapes of her feet,
picked her up,
carried her through.

decades later
she finds him sitting with only one shoe
smiling dimly up at her with
the smoldering wrong end of a cigarette
singeing his finely quivering fingers.

toothless, soft and stuttering,
a gosling in the palm.
if she were to cut him
he’d bleed milk, not blood.

A Miscarriage

After so long
do you still kick the apple trees
in August? Such weak feet
were never meant to make
even the most wizened of fruit
lose hold

I wonder where those trinkets went,
little monopoly pewter terriers,
something small and constant
to slip into a pocket, or the cup of
our training bras, thread us together
through twelve different towns.

maybe she could have had them. Like us,
imagined the terrier colossal, wrecking paper towns,
nicked her breasts on its hard metal corners,
together, begged the tall trees to throw down their fruit.


boney mama illuminated up
standing in our doorway, skin
all mud-water and steeped sky.
these are our backwoods,
mangling phonemes, poor as shit days.

ways to pass time:
pick weevils out of donated rice,
find new ways to extend the tea,
keep from floating. borrow weight
from pockets full of pebbles.
less body than mist,
but lovely, nonetheless.

back then—
when we fell, we couldn’t break water.
still can’t say we didn’t fall hard,
fall relentless.

Copyright © 2014 J. H. Yun

J. H. YunJ.H Yun is a new poet who is currently finishing up her BA degree at the University of California at Davis. Her work has appeared in journals such as The Winter Tangerine Review, TheNewerYork, The Nameless Journal, and an upcoming edition of Artemis Journal. She is a recipient of the 2013 Celeste Turner Wright prize in poetry, and was a finalist representing her university in the statewide Ina Coolbrith prize in poetry.

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014