by Kristen Hoggatt
The Korean diaspora spoons kimchi into plastic bags
across Central Asia. My friend Ann Ivanovska
dips her hands into buckets of eggplant and carrots,
like her mother and her grandmother before.
I saw her each day after I taught English. Ann taught
English, too, her day job at the maktab, rushing after class
to the bazaar to vend purple, green, and orange
vegetables that broke the monotony of mutton.
Ann is Anna in Russian, Anora in Uzbek, but she doesn’t
know her name in Korean, a language and a culture
diluted over the years since Stalin’s mass deportation.
As we displaced a liter on a rainy afternoon,
“Cheers for the holiday,” Ann said, “in Korea.”
We laughed as we knocked together chipped piolas
of vodka, rain swelling the clouds to the east.
Ann remembered her grandmother
as she explained the holiday, the birth of Buddha:
the walkway in the mountains lined with lotus lanterns,
wanderers welcomed home after years of travel on the road.
At a Korean restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown, I
think of Ann when I see the menu. I order the kimchi
among the steady clicks of plastic chopsticks,
businessmen poking at raw fish. I look out the window:
an owner and tenant shake hands in solid agreement,
an orientation leader trailed by a group of eager eyes,
an evangelist wearing a sandwich board, “Repent!”
The kimchi is served: bitter salad spilling over the brim,
too much vinegar making the cabbage leaves limp.
What is Ann doing now? I can still see her carrots hacked
and sliced, peppered by parsley, and a head of cabbage
splayed in half. In the summer, bowls of seaweed
from a dying sea, the cheese cloth parting food from fly.
Copyright © 2013 by Kristen Hoggatt.