we're still not over '92

by Tobi-Hope Jieun Park and Christina Miles Issue: Spring/Summer 2020

To Franny Choi’s Choi Jeong Min:

the classroom split, 
black on one, white on the other,
Like kitchen magnets forced to kiss
they repelled and I was caught
in the net of their polar-racial fields

I felt the tattoos of eyes on my skin,
blinking through black and white grains
of old Jim Crow Propaganda,
the teacher pointed at my face,
mouth shut,
said:
“she wouldn’t be here” 


in class,


I ask my teacher,
“Did anything happen in Korea?”
and she tells me,
“Probably, but it’s not important.”

Korea only existed on pantry shelves and 
between my nana’s teeth,
amongst scorched grains of rice in
tupperwares of nooroongi,

we never saw Korea in the classroom,
Fingers raised,
Voice projecting-peninsular,

But all I saw of Africa was a blur on a map
Butchered by cat o’ nine tails
And blanched by the word “negro”
The countless recordings playing on monsoon loop
of black twig legs knee deep in red mud
mud huts in with leaf-shamble roofs.

When I got into the car, I asked,

Mommy, am I black or white?

But I never had that choice,
my whole identity was defined
by a token check-list on a standardized test,
always the antithesis, always the outlier.

But at least you knew.

At least you can contain your ancestry to a country.

                       I’m not Korean.                 I’m not African
                         But I’m not American yet.

Korea says my words swell too loud for my mouth
and I spit out riots,
that grab for the low hanging fruit
and blame the spoiled apples on my
lack of a stepladder.
Korea says slavery is just an excuse.

Black says I am gumiho,
fox o’ nine tails, worshipper of the
Slippery and sly,
Draw the coins from your pocket and
figures from your bills as I insah,
Fingers circling navel,
Black says I am too greedy, too complacent in my own oppression

But we say
We’ve lost the tongues of our motherland
but we haven’t forgotten the taste of her mouth,
Blood sausage, barbecue, the sting of green onions 
fresh from the earth

her Songs are the stars our mothers cook into
the 
Bone-broth
to follow home when we are lost,
Which is always because

Our curves are forced into war-jagged frames,
And I hope that when I pull away,
my skin will hold those edges close,
like teeth to a sun-dried date.

*uses lines from Choi Jeong Min by Franny Choi



Tobi-Hope Jieun Park and Christina Miles

Tobi-Hope Jieun Park is a junior in the Creative Writing Conservatory at Orange County School of the Arts. She’s been writing since the age of eight, and particularly enjoys writing and reading poetry (classical, experimental, spoken word, and otherwise), nonfiction, and cross-genre pieces. Over the years, she has amassed publications in various journals such as Rattle, Chautauqua Journal, and SOLA, and is a National Medalist in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. At her school, Tobi is the Vice President of World Religion and Philosophy Club and Captain of the school’s Ethicsbowl team. She swears she really “isn’t that uptight”. Her friends and teachers agree. Spectators, not so much. In her free time, you can catch her harassing her younger brother and sister (and being harassed back), or bingewatching old reruns of House during study blocks. Keep an eye out for her debut poetry collection, Meraki, coming soon! 

Christina Miles is a 16 year old story teller, rock enthusiast and self-described history junkie. Her writing focuses on themes of inheritance, the intersection of identity and religion, and the complexity of family ties. She attends the Orange County School of the Arts where she studies the intricacies of prose and poetry, and acts as an editor for her school’s award winning annual literary magazine Inkblot. Her aspirations to learn as much about history as possible leads her to read volumes upon volumes of any text she can get her hands on, from Chiekh Anta Diop to Howard Zinn. A YoungArts Spoken Word Winner, Scholastic Gold Key recipient, and GetLit Player, she wants to use her poetry to communicate the necessity of telling our personal histories in order to create a better understanding of our world.