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Sunday, April 08, 2018


by Jessamine Price
Korea’s national creation myth also tells of a tiger and a bear who asked the son of the ruler of Heaven if he would make them human. He agreed, but only if they could endure 100 days in a cave eating nothing but garlic and mugwort. The steadfast bear endured and became a beautiful woman, who gave birth to Tangun, the legendary father of Korea in 2333 BCE. But the tiger grew hungry and impatient. He left the cave early, unable cope with the hunger and waiting, and has been slinking through the Korean mountains ever since. That is, until the last century when hunting and habitat loss pushed the Korean tiger over the brink of extinction in the wild in South Korea. With it went an important symbol of Korea’s identity. —ExpertSure. Image source: Zenzar.

The tiger’s eyelash
brushes the arc between sky and skin,
between sleep and the sweep of a vigilant paw.

Lash upon lash,
stripe upon stripe,
such dangerous grace is made.

The boar, the antelope, the bustard,
fed these teeth for a million years.
But the oceans rise—the deserts grow.

Drop by drop
drought by drought
such dangerous grace is maimed.

Jessamine Price, an American poet from Virginia, lives and teaches in South Korea. Her poems and essays are published or forthcoming in publications such as Hunger Mountain, the Lascaux Review, Delmarva Review, Poets Reading the News, and Rust + Moth. She has an MFA in creative writing from American University and an M.Phil. in economic and social history from Oxford.