Castaways in Paradise | “Passing Through: None” by Sun Yung Shin

BOMB 138 Winter 2017
BOMB 138 Cover

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“What brings you here,” he asked.
“What do you seek in this high tower,
Phaëthon—you, an heir no parent would
deny?”1

They saw tracks of animals—goats, the
men assumed, but actually deer—but
found the corpse of only one. Like so
much else in the “other world,” they
knew not what to make of the sight.

Sun Yung Shin Bomb 01

Author’s passport, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea, April 16, 1975.

The father put aside his shining crown
and told him to draw nearer and took
him in his arms: “It would not be
appropriate for me to disavow our
relationship…”

Consumed by the idea of this small child
alone in the wilderness, Columbus inter-
vened, pledging the boy “to God and
fortune.”

 

How often she would be too terrified to
lie down by herself in the deep woods,
and wandered to the fields near her old
home! … Often she hid herself at the sight
of beasts, forgetting that she was a beast
herself. And the bear was frightened by
the sight of bears up in the mountains—
and afraid of wolves, although her father
had been changed to one.

Columbus assumed that the object
“must be those of some ancestors of the
family; because those houses were of a
kind where many persons live in one,
and they should be relations descended
from only one.”

Sun Yung Shin Bomb 02

To keep her from successfully appeal-
ing to Jupiter, her speech was snatched
away: only a growl from deep within her
chest, a rumble, hoarse and menacing,
remained.

A pile of bare human bones testified to
their predilection: “All that could be
gnawed on, had been gnawed on, and
all that was left, was what could not be
eaten, because it was inedible.”

 The first half of the title of the poem and the text on the right-hand side are from Laurence Bergreen, Columbus: The Four Voyages 1492–1504. The second half of the title of the poem is from page seven of my passport.

1.The text on the left-hand side of the poem is drawn from Book II, Of Mortal Children and Immortal Lusts, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, translated by Charles Martin.

신선영 Sun Yung Shin is the author of three books of poetry from Coffee House Press: Unbearable SplendorRough, and Savage; and Skirt Full of Black. She is the editor of A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, coeditor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and the author of the children’s book 쿠퍼의 롐슨 Cooper’s Lesson. She is a contributing editor at Aster(ix) and Society Editions.

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Originally published in

BOMB 138, Winter 2017

Featuring interviews with Lynda Benglis, Roe Ethridge, Becca Blackwell, Antonio Campos, Robert Greene, Angie Keefer, Liz Magic Laser, Laura Kurgan, China Miéville, Michael Palmer, and Rosmarie Waldrop.

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