Youna Kwak






What happened? What news?

                                    Someone knocked hard,


we let him in. Becoming we in his presence,

                                                            or at his behest. We opened the door


and let him in,

            to the house where lately we’re strangers. Someone knocked hard,


who let him in? We had thought of late

                                                to leave this house, our only home, where lately


we were strangers. But we have nowhere to go. I opened

                                                                        the door, I let him in. Last night


in the house, my child had the fever. It rose at night

                                                            to one hundred and one.


Her fever gone up. 101. Fever dream

                                                in which we are the fever,


what kind of bug,

                        is it in my body?


I knew you once, when we were sitting

                                    together across the table. I knew your name, it was warm


in my house. Once,

                        we might have looked through the door


to the fields, to the meadows, to the edge of oceans

                                                but now in our house we’re


accustomed to silence.

                        Our lucid becoming, in the house without mirrors


where our face is not yet visible. I thought I knew

                                                                        how to tend my child


when we sat together often at the table. I knew our names,

                                                            we were warm in our house. Someone knocked


and I let him in, and now the house is a ruin

                                                and we have nowhere else to go.


Fever dream

            of moribund lucidity. Mourn with us, look upon


what we’ve lost,

                        we clasp ourselves in our forgetting, we forget ourselves


in our becoming other.

                        The wish to live becoming something, other. Remember


we were here together. We opened the door

                                                            to whomever knocking.


What news? What happened? (I opened the door).

                                    What ghost or specter? (I knew him well).


Someone knocked, and came in

                        but not the one whom I feared,


for the one I fear is too various for my loathing.

                                                One life only, among many lives, in which


we are always becoming.

                                    What we is now coming? We opened the door


to whomever was knocking, when the specter came in,

                                                                        when the fever rose


as we were sleeping,

                        and why were we sleeping and how can we sleep—


unfurl the we, its million knots,

                                    unlock the door to the various, us


we opened the door and he strode in,

                                                fever dream in which we are obliging,


the mind plays a trick, the trick

                                    our becoming. One life only


and eternally becoming.

                                                We become our loss, and we mourn without ceasing.


We opened the door and in he strode.

                                                Becoming we, we want only to live


and this wish must become our condemnation

                                                            to be alone in the fields, at the edge of the ocean,


where nothing will be

                        seen on our faces. The forest, the ocean,


the meadows, the fields, the plains, the groves,

                                                            the beautiful groves,


we want only to live.

                                    What news, and where,


did you see me there? What is ruin?

                                                (The drawing you made that got wet, it’s ruined).


Our house a ruin,

                        we have nowhere to go. Not


that I’ve suffered, but I’ve had too much joy.

                                                            No one else was allowed to enter.


He knocked hard, came in, shut the door. I have

                                                                        nowhere else to go.


I tried to stay, in the house

                                    where we were strangers. I tried to do what I could,


but my trying was for nothing. Ruined world, world of ruin,

                                                we go again and again to each other’s houses,


knocking hard on the door,

                                    I did what I could


but my doing was for nothing.

                                    What have you done? What will you do?


What confusion did we suffer? We let him in, we shut the door,

                                                            we have nowhere to go. Here we are,


together at last.

                        Here at last, in our ruined house,


together at last. I could wander outside

                                                            but never discover us.


We stay in the house, together at last.

                                                It is joy that binds us here, as much as suffering.


Together at last. What now of your world?

                                                            We are


together here, together at last. We let him in,

                                                he shut the door. We have nowhere else to go.


Only pills and liquids,

                        soothing the fever without knowing its causes,


in the house where we are strangers. We opened the door

                                                                        and let him in. Strangers


no longer, we become in ruin.

                                                            No, Mama. The drawing got wet, and it was beautiful.


Youna Kwak lives in Redlands, California, where she writes, teaches, and walks in the mountains. She has also lived and worked in Brooklyn, Missoula, New Haven, New Orleans, Olney, Paris, Providence, Seoul, and Silver Spring. She loves correspondence and would be pleased if you dropped her a line.