A man teeters at the edge
of the East River.
After his last deliberate swig, the man
lifts his bottle over his head as if considering
whether to sacrifice it. He hesitates.
Where is the memo about knowing
what to save, what to abort?
A woman clips a leash to a toddler, and I notice
a sign asking not to climb the rocks please.
Everyone warns us off the rocks.
What will keep us from the river?
~from “Deciding Not to Drown Today”
Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books, 2014), winner of the Debut-litzer
Prize in Poetry and finalist for Yale’s Series of Younger Poets. I first
read Eugenia’s book in 2017, the year that I lost both my sister and her
11-year-old son (my nephew) to suicide. In the midst of acute grief and
PTSD, her poetry was one of the few things I could hear inside what felt
like a rubber bubble, keeping me safely apart from the world. As a
biracial, Korean American woman, I longed for poems that could reach me,
and I found them. In spite of the fact that South Korea has one of the
highest suicide rates in the world, the Korean American community as a
whole has long insisted on silence when it comes to suicide, abuse, and
violence. I have turned to Eugenia’s poetry in my own writing process, when
I’ve needed courage and inspiration. Her poetry sings, wails, and
whispers. Eugenia’s latest poem to be published, “Gold,” can
be found in the Summer, 2020, issue of Pleaides, as part of a folio of Korean
American poets, edited by E.J. Koh. “Gold” brings us full circle, back to
“Deciding Not to Drown Today” by exploring the reasons why we should step
back from those rocks, and stay.
~Joan Kwon Glass