Friday, November 27, 2015

Under Obligation

In the blood red glow of brake lights
I study your ashen skin
And damp dark eyes
Night settles with the cold fog
Mind your white shirt
Straighten your tie
In a black car you slip away
From the mindless babble
Voices in the dirty air
I dissolve and re-imagine you
Dressed in silk, or
Dressed in BDUs
How could your form fill
Such a large cavity
At only twenty years?
How could your body absorb
Alcohol and gunshots,
When you are still a child?


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Inland (Winter)

I want to meet you before dawn
When it is cold and quiet,
And the sun sleeps below the ocean
Shining on another land,
Waves crashing in the silence
Salt in your hair, hair in your eyes
Dark as the sky
Before it bleeds blue, color
Seeping up from the sea,
And the city lights, in the distance, blink out
While your heartbeat is calm,
Each slow, quiet breath
Brings your chest close, warmth against me
In the frozen air, in the bitter wind
Your chapped lips and dry skin
Taste like the ocean,
Last night's soju, haemulpajeon,
Sea brine.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Well, goodbye, teenage years.
It was terrifying, but it was beautiful.
I hope I continue learning through other "baby adults" as time passes. Don't ever let me forget this trying and yet rewarding time in life. We grow, we change, we become truer to ourselves, and that's worth dwelling on.
Yes, I believe a "teenaged" time does exist naturally. We only use such a "category" to hold a person back when we view it as a "negative" experience...the emotions and changes of adolescence are not so.
For myself, it was a time when I learned my own sadness, my joys, my values, my religion, my interests. I drew, I wrote, I cried, I dressed funny, I learned new languages. We shouldn't look at this time so negatively, despite its trials. Without it, there would be no time to develop ourselves as adults.
That time is far from over, of course. I am not grown up yet, and I say this every year. But I can tell that time is coming to a close. For once, I feel like I'm older.
When I was born at 1:59am on Friday, November 17th, 1995, only God knew what kind of person I would be now. I have grown and changed so very much since that cold morning! If I were home right now, at this moment, my mom would be relating the story of my birth in a mesmerizing tone of nostalgia which I cannot comprehend, for I don't remember the first few years of my life. Instead, I log her memories as a way to prepare for my possible future children; learning through another's experience. It is only on the night before my birthday that I hear the story to be about ME and MY existence.
How truly crazy it is that I am both alive and have been for a decade.
40 seems so far away, yet when I consider the picture of a baby's face I do not know, dressed in hospital clothes, sitting on my grandmother's mantle, I see that I have actually come quite far since that moment.
It's a time to be celebrated, despite the changes and the unfamiliarity.
I have come so far!
Thanks be to God!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I sit under an apple tree all day
Just waiting for you to fall
So I can reassess the gravity effect
Your existence has on me

When I sleep I remind myself
You will never know me, and I dream of
Rejection, so I can refrain
From wanting your embraces, your kisses

It's so cold by the florescent lights
Night comes bitterly alone
Do you love the sound of the wind?
November, beloved, returns

Starlight and empty black sky,
My patient soul is futile
Constellations do not collide,
They were determined before time itself

But were you part of mine?
When you entered this hazy atmosphere
Your playful eyes sparkling
Can we call it true destiny?

As you live out your dreams
Downing liquor on warm summer nights
Will you ever want me with that gaze?
Or am I just coincidence?

Thursday, November 12, 2015


The long winter nights reach their arms
Out to hold me in my loneliness
Your eyes--they linger, they entrance me
Do not go, for the darkness is cold,
Forget the time it was warm, in November
Like summer's dying breath,
Drinking gin in a dorm room, laughing
For what it was worth, I have only
Seen you walk home alone,
The stars in your eyes, brighter
And more brilliant, your back turned
To the world, you raise your hands,
I have lost myself in that single moment,
Yes, I am the one
Who is waiting on the empty night for you
Inking out confessions to you
As the seconds flicker by like the candle
I have lit inside of me, aware
Of the time I must come and go, therefore
I have naught to say,  but hold out
These senseless words.

Friday, November 6, 2015

8:30 AM, November

The pale grayness reaches out
Trembling by the light of day
My tired eyes absorb
So weak they cannot handle it
Seeping across the windowsill
And into my cup of coffee
Calm and easily forgotten
Are the joys of the first moments
Halting earth's spinning for a mere breath
Before the sun burns away
It's safety blanket
Piercing my bedroom
In harsh, real light
Too warm, too strong a reminder
We are still moving, we must.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Struggling to Learn: This is Hard Now

Frustrations thanks to my language studies. A long overdue timeline of my journey and details of my current (unmotivated) situation below.

I've been studying Korean for a long time. I began informally studying when I was sixteen. I wanted to learn the language through watching Korean television and listening to Korean music, with the intent to formally enroll in a class at some point if my interest grew.
As I continued to learn I developed an insatiable thirst for the language. I invested in the Byki learning program from Transparent Language, which focuses on vocabulary through digital flashcards. I brought my vocabulary to over 500 words through Byki and Korean drama. My understanding of grammar was minimal and learned almost entirely through Korean drama. I began watching videos from Talk to Me In Korean and gathering further understanding of grammar from these, but I did not study them with dedication as I did not have any desire to communicate or use complex grammar forms. I simply wished to absorb.
I will call this Stage 1 of my language development. It lasted for over a year.
I want to say, as I did the entirety of last year, that this was the best way for me to learn Korean. When I arrived in Seoul in August of 2013 at Hanyang University, I took a placement test and was enrolled in the level just above beginner. I learned how to properly write Korean letters. In an immersive environment, I learned more "how to live" vocabulary and began picking up on grammar. After two weeks of classes for 5 hours a day, I vaguely remember being able to understand more Korean. My recollection is vague because as soon as I returned to the U.S. I returned to studying Spanish for year two level courses. This was such a bad idea because instead of progressing into a stage 2 of learning Korean, I remained in a "limbo" and lost a lot of what I had learned while I was in Korea.
Nope, I don't speak any Spanish now.
Fast forward to June 2014 and I returned to Seoul for a five-week intensive language course in Korean. It wasn't immersive because I tested into a level just above beginner, basically the same level I tested into at Hanyang the year before. The first week was boring, the next four were an enjoyable challenge. Homework was optional. The final exam was not very important because I couldn't transfer my credits anyway. The only requirement was that I come to class every day; otherwise, I would fail the course due to multiple absences.
I learned so much, so quickly. I was extremely happy. I could form short sentences and my huge vocabulary from years ago was coming back and giving me an advantage.
In late August of 2014 I began my first semester at university in the U.S. My first semester I enrolled in beginner Korean, and I was bored for a few weeks, but found the new grammar useful. I could now communicate in short sentences. By the end of the semester I grew more confident in my abilities to communicate with native speakers. I could message my Korean friends and hold a short conversation in Korean. The one thing which got me was assignments; I put off homework and found studying for vocabulary quizzes and lesson exams difficult. I've always been bad at studying due to the woes of being a homeschooler, and I certainly didn't expect to come to this school without learning how to study. But studying in Korean was a chore, submitting homework was a chore. I despised it.
This "Stage 2" lasted until the middle of Spring 2015. Around April, when the crunch for finals and other classes came, I let Korean go even more. I stopped worrying about my grade in the class as other classes dominated my life. Korean itself became a chore. I stopped wanting to even study this language, and I stopped believing I could ever be fluent. For the summer, I didn't even touch a Korean textbook. I spoke English 95% of the time. I think I fell back a lot.
This began Stage 3. This is the stage I am still at, in November 2015.
I can't retain anything...what I do retain is hard to use. Grammatical forms frustrate me. Vocabulary no longer feels applicable (I can't use it every day so I forget it quickly). The Korean speakers I do communicate with on occasion are either fluent in English/semi-fluent in Korean (and will switch back to English for me) or speak a dialect (this has it's own difficulties). I realize, deeply, that I need to be putting in more effort. I need to be exhausting myself for this level of language learning. If I am to become fluent, I must put in twice as much as I am now, if not three times as much. I should be drilling myself, conversing with native speakers at least weekly, and consuming Korean like a dry sponge. I should be using my entire language house conversation time for learning. There is so much I should be doing.
But I have to graduate. This constant conflict between my major and my language is distracting. The fact that language learning is becoming a chore again, like Spanish was. I feel like I'm barely keeping up.
I don't do well with tests. I don't do well with drills. I can't learn with pressure. I like to explore and discover on my own without so many time constraints, without so many requirements. However, I still need the classroom experience. I need to learn the "correct" language. I don't want to stop studying Korean, and at this point in my university life, I can't.
I've worked myself into what I hope is late Stage 3...I spend a lot of time listening and understanding, but I still form baby sentences. In fact, it looks like my sentence formation is regressing. I've taken a teaching class, and though I realize this happens, somehow I forgot to remember how to fix it, and most professors would say it's all about waiting for your brain to catch up anyway.
I wish that I could be spending this time doing what feels natural, allowing my effective filter (hard to put a definition on this one without writing an essay, but basically how much a person can take of negative input until they overload and disassociate) to get higher. I am emotionally intimidated by the thought of speaking or reading aloud. I can write but I must be given time, prompts, a dictionary, and a grammar book.
I would love to give myself time to absorb, to learn at my own pace.
But I also can't do that. I have to pass this class. I have to pass my exams.
Learning won't be fun anymore from this point out. It won't be easy, it will be hard. Call this a fourth-year stress overload. Call it a foreign-language-learning crisis. I just want to get it over with.

The one thing I have realized is that the ESL students I work with are an impressive group. Reaching the level of fluency some of them have is a feat I can only dream of accomplishing. Though I'm suffering right now, I'll value this experience later when I'm teaching. I know what they have been/are going through.

That's all for now.