Kang Duk-kyung

my school teacher          asked me     if I wanted         
             to go to Japan      do something good for the Emperor
we were led to a harbor
a cargo ship    a train
           to a factory in Doyamaki             where
Food was so scarce    we pulled grass, roots anything we could eat
girls died of hunger    some went crazy
I ran away   was found   by a Japanese soldier 
              took me
              to a hut            Every evening
countless soldiers        on the wild mountainside
An unusually quiet day
             I found Japan had lost the war
I sailed to Korea
jumped from the crates   hit my stomach with fists
I failed            I named him Young-ju
                        left him at an orphanage
met him every Sunday
             one Sunday
I saw another boy in his clothes
Young-ju had died of pneumonia
             already buried
I thought of Kobayashi bringing me rice
in his drunken stupor                         I thought of the piece of steel
I took    at the factory
I found some of the steel            so attractive
I still believe      he is alive
somewhere                 I want to believe
that all was just a terrible       fate
But then,
              But then

Emily Jungmin Yoon, "Kang Duk-kyung" from A Cruelty Special to Our Species.  Copyright © 2018 by Emily Jungmin Yoon.  Reprinted by permission of The Ecco Press (HarperCollins Publishers).
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