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My mother was born in Seoul, South Korea

poetry by Crystal Ignatowski

My mother was born in Seoul, South Korea

but I never knew her then. Scrawny arms

and porcelain skin. Hair like a bird’s nest,

but it wasn’t a home yet, she wasn’t

a home yet.


It is Mother’s Day. We are kayaking.

The sun is hot against our flesh.

Her’s is tanning, mine is just

turning red.


I ask her if she considers herself

biracial. The question hangs

above our heads. She answers,

but I hear something different:

the story of her green fabric

slippers, her cloth doll friend,

how her mother signed her adoption

papers in red lipstick, how she signed

away her Kim.


My mother was born in Seoul, South Korea,

but I never knew her then. The tips

of our kayaks glide through the water

like needles with no thread. We are moving

but we leave no trace.

Sugar Baby

poetry by Crystal Ignatowski

Sugar Baby

Tacoma was never good

to me, but I was never

good to it. I should have been

in California or Alaska or

New York. Instead, I was in

the house of a stranger, bare

feet on his carpeted stairs, fresh

lemon squeezed in my hair. I was  

on the landing, I was in the hall

way, I was in the bedroom,

I was in the bed. Afterwards,

the cash felt thin like paper

because it was. I always

tried to be

quiet in the street

the next morning. I would

pull my car door closed

instead of slam it, as if

a different sound

would mean a different

me. My engine would

start the sound of escape,

but there was no escape,

just gray clouds

above a sunken horizon,

over 150 days of rain

a year. I would

always be

back with gritted

teeth and a new black

dress, but the wrong eyes

were seeing it,

seeing me.

Five Years Later, I'm Commuting to a New Job in Portland

poetry by Crystal Ignatowski

CONTENT WARNING: intimate relationship violence. Please read at your own risk.

FiveYears Later, I'm Commuting to a New Job in Portland

I saw a man on the side of the road with long hair

in cascading curls. I thought you moved to Sweet Home.

I remember your smile: sultry sweet, but only when you

wanted to be. I remember your white tank tops ripped

at the seams. But mostly I remember your hands on my throat

and how you always carried around a knife. It stuck out your waistband

like a weed. You would come home late and lay all the guns

on the bed like they were our children. We’re all safe,

you would say, lighting up a cigarette, flicking

the ash on the duvet, now get naked. And I would do it,

part of me an animal, part of me already slaughtered.

The day I locked the doors to the house was the day

I learned to love the half of me still living.


The man on the side of the road could have been

you, but I was moving fast along the freeway.

When I whisked by, his curls flew up like a skirt caught

in the wind. They stuck to his face so I couldn’t

see him. Just his pale neck was visible

and exposed.

crystal headshot (1).jpg

Crystal Ignatowski

Crystal Ignatowski's poetry has been featured in Bullets Into Bells, Flypaper Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, and more. She lives and writes in Oregon.

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