Unbroken #40: The Hope Museum Is Now Open
귀신 피 뼈 빛 사랑 Ghost Blood Bone Light Love
When my mother and father were still seeds inside their mothers, bits of their country were erasing. Tracts of land, trees, Korean words, family names, waist-length braids. Royal palaces, turned into zoos for little Japanese children with no clue the courtyards once held anything else. Teenage girls kidnapped, called toilets among the soldiers between rapes. My father wet his bed until he was 16. He was called midget and pee pee boy, beaten by his brothers and his father who were treated like half men themselves but said he was even less than that. My mother became a ghost. She used the same yellow sponge around the house and my father’s drunk rages and absorbed it all, erased herself in her sewing projects, her incessant shopping escapades for the brightest looking used dresses and window drapes, like she used the endless recipes that if she got just right, would release her from her tiny life, a woman finally free to do what her sad heart had always wanted. If only her heart would talk to her. The sponge in the kitchen was always full of food and spilt beer, small chips of plate and glass, and when I went to clean the blood from my father’s bite mark on her hand, I glimpsed bone and red blooming into the towel I held there, then remembered how her sponge was already used and dirty, busy holding onto too many other things.
I was born in America and grew up hard and sick with no sense of balance — drank and bit people and laughed like a demon who lost her face. But drinking was my medicine, gave me the sweet gift of forgetting. When I drank, I drank with my father, and his father, and all the fathers before that, links to the past that were erased with our land and our records and our original names. The soft black braids that cradled our sleeping faces at night, telling our family members we’d still be there when we woke up, along with our own hands, eyes, if not our Korean names. And so while I drank and self-forgot, for just a little while our family could all be together; we could laugh and believe we were at the center of things. But I grew bloated and empty-bellied just like the hungry ghosts father used to fear, and I started to have visions beyond our family and what we had lost; constellations that would exist millions of years before, then a million years after Korea was no longer Korea, Japan and America were no longer Japan and America — when every piece of land had caught fire and disappeared under warm lifeless water full of bleached coral. And I learned I could leave my demon and find my memory, take it back from the ruins of outer space and lost time. I didn’t realize that when you stopped drinking and your memory came back, new songs could appear for you. A strange and gorgeous light, maybe even love, too.
Elizabeth Lee (she/her) is a Korean American fiction and nonfiction writer based out of Santa Fe, NM. Her work has appeared in Santa Fe Noir, Pleiades Magazine, Vestal Review, and Chestnut Review. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) and Brown University.
You are fourteen and your parents are taking you out for dinner even though you did not ask them to. You have never been to a Golden Corral before, so you stack your plate with a little bit of everything. The restaurant is filled with other children and their parents, tables littered with a variety of dishes and the air dense with conversation. The ends of sentences intertwine like lace and barbed wire. It could have been a nice dinner, but your mother does not like politics, and your father thinks they are everything. Your mother swaps your dessert for vegetables because she twisted her ankle when she was fifteen and she needs you to live out her dream of dancing. If you say no then she will never forgive you. Your father is having an affair and the guilt makes him hateful because he’s trying to find justification for what he’s done by persuading your mother to do worse. He pinches your thigh under the table and you say nothing. He rubs your thigh under the table and you say nothing. In between bites, your mother and father sneak sad glances at one another. When the plates are cleared and the glasses are empty, your parents excuse themselves to the bathrooms and never come back. Now that your mother is gone, you decide to reclaim your dessert, but the waitress brings the check and demands that you pay and get out. She says you’ve had enough. You tell her that you still have nothing and she says that she will figure something out. You spend the next three nights on your knees, scrubbing grease off of the tile. You wash dishes and make sure the bathrooms are pristine. At the end of those three nights, your bill is paid for, or so you think, but the managers need you now because the bathrooms are dirty again and more plates have shattered and no one knows cleaning up the messes of others like you do. You don’t know how to let go so you spend the rest of your life on your knees like you’re praying to the tune of shattering glass and silverware scraping against teeth.
Delmira Ramos is a writer currently living in Baltimore. She enjoys writing surrealist prose. Her writing can be found in Winning Writers and Invisible City Lit. She is the editor-in-chief of Chismosa Literary, a magazine dedicated to the people-watchers and eavesdroppers of the world.
Addiction is a Wily Thing
For love, she dissolved into ether, a vapor rising from damp sod. First a finger, then a hand. Each morning she woke to another lost limb, though she appeared quite intact. Moved about her days. When her spine collapsed, fractured into bone pebbles and dust motes, when she was disappearing in both directions, dissolving and disintegrating, the paralyzing pain wasn’t what screamed at night or the invisibility of an exploded star lost to gravity. It was how she let him erase her.
They were swimming at the lake. Floating in blue-green serenity, flirting fanned fingertips, touching and drifting away, the sun a silky sheen on skin, when he clasped her hand hard, let go, turned, and dove underwater. A game of find me in murky depths. Clear water turned milky amber, then dense with mud, where she found him flailing at bottom, wedged between two logs, strangled by weeds. Frantic. He reached, clasped-clutched her hand, locked her in his demise. A wolf in a trap will gnaw her limb free, leave it severed and bloody in rusting teeth. Underwater, she curled into a tight ball, pressed her feet against his chest, dislocating her shoulder. Her arm and hand streaked with bloody claw marks. She shattered the surface, gasping. Swam like a three-legged wolf loping into pines.
* * *
November strips the girl naked as the Catalpa tree, swallows her in memory dense and viscous as oil, leaves her to rot like the sprinting deer, car struck, stunned, and staggering in the front lawn, blood tracking her last minutes of breath. Circling vultures, clusters of crows pick her clean, leaving a hollow tunnel to an open-mouthed stare; fur strewn in tufts lifts in autumn gusts.
The summer before kindergarten, the girl, sprinting in summer’s shimmer, was likewise struck for an unknown sin. The father booming forward, held and hit her, hard as a speeding car, red welts blooming on her body, limp from shock, her spirit retracting inward, crawling under the Catalpa, marking the trail to her terror, where big-handed leaves drop each year.
Catherine Arra is the author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Her newest work is Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues (Kelsay Books, 2022). A Pushcart nominee, she lives in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at www.catherinearra.com.
She was always, always squeaky-clean polite and polished, said “please” and “thank you” on cue, and always, always smiled graciously, her lips always, always fire-engine red. She was always, always cute, demure. Pretty, but not the prettiest. Smart, but not the smartest. Never the lead in the play, never a drum major or first flute, never a soloist. Never first, and never last. Always, always overlooked. Always, always so squeaky-clean polite and polished that everyone was startled, startled when she lit the school auditorium on fire, set the flames loose like wild geese and folly. Poured, poured gasoline over the seats, across the stage, and down, down in front, where the pit orchestra played. She licked, licked her lips, still, still fire-engine red, as she watched the room ignite. No one could have anticipated the fire burning like it did, or for her own heat to shine so bright, bright and fierce. Everyone noticed her after that, not the way she no longer said “please” and “thank you” on cue, but the way she still smiled, smiled graciously, her lips always, always still, still fire-engine red. She would never, never be overlooked again.
Jessica Klimesh is a US-based writer and editor with words in Cleaver, Bending Genres, Does It Have Pockets, trampset, and Ghost Parachute, among others. She won 3rd Prize in the 2023 South Shore Review Flash Fiction Contest. Learn more at jessicaklimesh.com.
Freshly Made Just for You
That was the summer an ice cream van came to our part of town, where no ice cream van had ever come before. They knew nobody had money to buy their 99s and double nougats, and they’d be lucky to leave with their tyres intact. We knew we were scum. We could see it in our teachers’ eyes when they realised we were from Easterhill. They knew without us saying anything. They saw it in our matted hair, stained clothes and shredded shoes. That’s why we looked at each other in disbelief when we heard the ice cream music, a ribbon of notes blown in from somewhere, blurring in and out of focus as the sound twisted, like the music box Kieran Allen stole from a shop in the town centre. We ran around the estate trying to find the van, broken glass crunching under our feet, always expecting it to be around the next corner. We had no money, so I don’t know what we’d have done if we found it, but we chased nevertheless. Kevin was going to get Mr Whippy. Jenny had her eye on rum and raisin. I just wanted vanilla. I’d never had ice cream, and it seemed like a good place to start.
Daniel Addercouth grew up on a remote farm in the north of Scotland but now lives in Berlin, Germany. His writing has appeared in The Broken Spine, Many Nice Donkeys, and Briefly Zine, among other places. Find him on X/Twitter at @RuralUnease.