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The Sun is Not Kind

Updated: Mar 12, 2023


They said there was a suicide on Gajwa Road, and now it’s haunted.

Hwangeum Street is empty.

If you want silence, you can go to Gwanak District,

but that’s too far.


Jieun Kim from apartment 113

hitchhiked on a dream,

the fleeting midnight KORAIL. She left with

skinny arms,

in a gingham skirt

but came home with a broken wrist

to match her heart.

Maybe in another life,

the train would slow for her

and she would stay.


Seohyun moved back in 2001.

She brought us plastic dolls and made-up stories.

She said it felt weird here, after seeing bigger and better.

Said it felt


I thought she was right.


“Please keep off of the train tracks.”

The speakers scream,


A pudgy, wide-eyed little girl steps

behind the yellow caution tape.

“Officials are on their way.”

It’s rush hour.

The girl begins to cry and the deaf man

hears her,

takes her home.


My grandmother asks if I am going to stay.

I tell her I don’t know.

You will? she smiles.

Yes, I will.


Sangmin, 16, sits on an apartment veranda.

He thinks maybe gravity will work the same here

as it did for Galileo

in another life, a prettier city, a leaning tower.

He drops his books and they fall,




Inside, the pudgy kids are playing on with plastic dolls,

The kids are happy

and alone, wide-eyed

and alone.


My mom grew up on Namsan, a mountain in the west.

I climbed it last night and yelled from its peak.


Eunji got into Yonsei University.

Her parents threw her a party

but she didn’t go.

She spent the night watching trains at the station.

All she’d ever wanted was excellence, but

she loved the trains to death.


My parents picked a random apartment high-rise

out of thousands in the city.

It had nice gray walls and a sturdy veranda.

They sat me down and turned the TV up high

to drown out the trains below me.

I grow up with my eyes




On the screen, a news anchor reports on a suicide.


My mom grew up on Namsan, a mountain in the west.

In the spring, it blooms with pretty flowers and it’s


worth the winter.


On Sunday, I sat in Yeouido Park.

I thought if I squinted past the smog, I could see the sun. It looked


Three months later, I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and it felt like

another life, a prettier city, a crooked building.

It wasn’t Seoul, so

I pretended it was.


Seohyun never came home.

She’d seen too much, now her

lungs gasping for air in the crowded streets,

eyes searching for blue in a blur of gray.

She started community college last week.


The best view of Seoul is from above.

“First responders are coming. Please clear the area.”

But Seoul is pretty from inside the speeding trains, too.

All blurry and



Eunji was in love with the subway.

She went to school for medicine, studied train schedules at night.

She spent her afternoons sitting on the tracks

watching trains depart, never the same one twice.

I am going to live if it kills me,

I am going to live if it kills me.

The vibrations wracked her heart

and when she reached out, sprained her wrist.

She goes to class with her arm in a sling.


Seohyun disappeared. Her parents cried.

Her bones turned to steel,

her eyes stretched into one-way windows. She spent every night


Away, away, away,

never the same place twice.

Her parents kneeled on sidewalk vents, praying for help.

What had gone wrong?

They’d given her everything.


Sangmin saw himself on the news:

a girl

splayed on the train tracks.

They said it wasn’t a suicide.

They said she’d jumped from an unyielding building,

through the vents, face first

onto the train tracks.

Death by gravity.

Now, she’s bleeding into the cement, and the blood seeps

down, down, away.

Death by Seoul.

Sangmin wonders if she was one of the kids inside, happy

and wide-eyed

and alone.


if he turned,

he would’ve seen her run her hands

along the plastic train tracks like

she knew.

Death by Sangmin.


They said there was a suicide on Gajwa Road, and now it’s



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