phoenix fire, tabula rasa
by Kim Eun-byeol
with words in your throat and
weights in your heart,
a dam crafted from paving stones of a life.
history, written on your arms. a litany of moments
wherein you are David, fighting intangible Goliath
like dragons, majesty and death and flight.
remember. bear witness. in crashes of thunder,
sparks of lightning,
be caught in rain and tempest before being freed to clear skies.
fly. mark annals of history; recapture from its depths that
it is never Goliath who won.
lest survival ensnares you in the abyss still staring back.
memory, too sharp; acerbic, carved
into your skin, your heart, your lifeblood.
under its weight you drown, fight for air,
claw against evanescent assault,
screams rendered soundless in a vacuum.
"i am fine," you say, words that cut like whips, like
failed promises, like a thousand knives,
through gritted teeth, forced smiles, white-knuckled fists.
chalk your hands; find a grip; a toehold.
기억 할꺼야. 다시 숨 을 쉴수 있을거야.
le rêve. 꿈.
when the world slips through your fingers
and through your blood, rivers of silver and light.
it is the eye of the hurricane, transient peace
when reality is shaped by an artist you
only half know, because she lives within you
where you cannot reach.
you have been broken open, torn apart, reshaped, pulled
in disparate directions, but the dreams
are a shaping of your own,
a chimera, an illusion of threat, of beauty—a geas, you and
the universe: the road will turn.
thoughts are nebulous—"false recall", they say,
"suggestible", and you turn away,
your life abrogated, sundered from your voice,
without remorse or permission or care.
there is a sword in one hand: do you
fall on it?
there is an olive branch in the other: do you
"forgiveness is healing", they say; they forget
to tell you, "forgiveness is relative". the
memories, simmering beneath your skin, in your heart, are
with candlelight glimpses and moonlight quiet.
with pain and joy, with
despair and celebration.
hope is not a thing of feathers
rather a thing of fire and blood,
rebirth and remaking in the way of the phoenix,
bright like sunrise to remind you you’re alive.
you are tabula rasa, memories like scars like imprints from
words written on the previous page
of your life.
break ground, in terra incognito, in rainfall
that begins to wash you clean once again.
acknowledge. embody. accept. you will never forget,
but there will come a day (tomorrow, next week, next
month) when you will wake and,
for a moment, find equilibrium.
it is ephemeral, flitting just beyond your grasp like a butterfly.
"i am fine," you say, lips curving fractionally more easily,
hands hanging loose at your sides, body
less braced to run defence,
and that fleeting moment grows, the butterfly that
breaks its cocoon;
you can begin again, shaped anew.
j’ai survécu; et je vivrai.
Kim Eun-byeol is a Korean-Chinese-American author, equestrienne, calligrapher, and editor with too many books and not enough bookshelves. She grew up in the California Bay Area, studied in upstate New York, and is now an MA candidate in Washington, DC. In her (non-existent) spare time, she is a practitioner of krav maga, a self-defence instructor, and a volunteer at her local fire department. You can find her on twitter at @kim_eunbyeol.
Photography: adapted from Feathers, by Tony Hisgett.