4 Poems by Joseph Han – The Feminist Wire

4 Poems by Joseph Han

Why I Take My Grandmother to Church Every Sunday



She replaced her husband’s limbs with wood:

broken from doors in past rooms, branches


long fallen from bare trees, a leg from the dinner

table. She roped his new limbs into a cross,


bore him over shoulder thinking disciple instead

of wife. On her wedding night, she had received


a gift of nails – now knowing how to use them.

Rewrite these verses until you can recite


His words back. She told me to throw away

every deed of grandfather’s flesh. We propped


him against the wall. We found his forgiveness

in our knees. We pray for him, in the name of—


she rocked her head, hair fanning his toes.

She asked God to make sure I never became


this man, who has long since sank the way drifting

names always do, who I bathe for relief


or drown when I drink from her cup of fury.




Mother to Son



Son, how many times did forcing

our jobs from your mouth


shame you—more soju please

like some growl from your hunger


of Benjamin cards? When smoke passes,

the fire went out—empty


dishes left, tips folded under cups

to fill my apron—replace


the grill—like the end of some

trick. Let me count the ways


I feed us. Son, don’t judge me,

wine-faced from the swig and Xanax


generic milligram—refill

our water—nestling lips. My feet


hurt. How many times have I flipped

cold tongues? Tables


cleared. Everything steams

or sits, waiting to get picked,


stabbed, while men hail the black

yakiniku vest, calling here, more




Prayer for an aspiring K-pop star



Dear Father of the holy

trinity – SM, YG, JYP                                  


Entertainment, blessed be

the fame you deny


me yet. I see futures

in music video dance


sets, though mother

has scarred my calves


for every study failure;

father has pulled


my hair to match leaves

from willow trees.


Dearest Father above

them both, when will others


mock my dance? The stars

have stolen my teeth


from every camera smile.

I’m cursed with bad skin:


I will make the cut –

my old pelt ribbons,


a bundle of wood shavings

looping onto the floor.


I am a ruby underneath

waiting to renew.


Hold me up against full

spectrum light


and watch it sing

right through.






You spit in my mouth when I have you, a cigarette I crave


but only smoke on the weekend. I pluck my memory of you


through strands: my gayageum sings, smoke rising in slow tempos moving fast


over strings for every month passing in tempo to arrive at the view


of a waterfall – though we never made a year. Playing is not


about relaxing, but releasing energy into fingers, gayageum is earth,


the backboard is sky while I find a crescent moon and the sun


in cliché curves of your body. I collect your moan clouding


under my tongue: a leaf on water while paper continues to burn:


as your nails rake my back and arms, knives to a page


bending my body into a crane. I echo while losing ways to sing –hollowed


in quiet vibrations. How easy you make me crumble.




Joseph_Han-JHJoseph Han was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. His recent work is forthcoming in AAWW’s The Margins, while other writing has appeared in, Connotation Press, Mascara Literary Review, and Eclectica Magazine. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, Orphan (Tinfish Press 2015). He tweets @hanjoseph.