Nicky Schildkraut
Contributions

Nicky Schildkraut’s poems have appeared in Salmagundi, The New England Review, The Mississippi Review, The Sante Fe Review Online, the 2007 Korean-English anthology I Didn’t Know Who I Was, and most recently has poems featured in Asian American Poets and Writers. She is working on a Ph.D. degree in English Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her critical dissertation investigates representations of Japanese colonization, the Korean civil war, and revolution in contemporary avant-garde poetry by Korean American artists. She currently serves as the President for the Circle For Asian American Literary Studies, an organization of scholars, professors, and graduate students interested in Asian American and South/Southeast Asian literature.

Third-Person


A boy hurries to the grocery for fresh bread, but finds it already closed. Returning home, his father spanks him. The moral of the story is: It doesn’t matter if you hurry.
  In communism, things just close
.  A teenager takes pills, reason unknown, and falls into a deep sleep, in the driver’s seat of her car, next to a worn copy of The Bell Jar. She wakes to medics shouting at her, demanding her name. The moral of the story is: Dying is not an art. An old man in a communist country boards the government bus, after seeing his brothers and sisters for the first time in fifty years. Even the translator is confused, hired for a different event, and haltingly curses the capitalists like a ventriloquist. Afterwards, it begins raining outside so heavily that when the man reaches up to wave from his bus seat, he fails to see his distant relatives clustered on the street, weeping as the camera just halts. The moral of the story is: You understand only
so much
.


The Defector


It was never rhetorical. After the only tractor in the village died and the last weeds were gathered for dinner, she fled across the frozen Tumen river, across the border into yet another border. A lonely widow in a crushed paper tent waited for her, creasing the picture of her between
the stubs of his fingers, this beautiful, fugitive bride.
They will never leave you, these girls will die over and over,
just to be with you
, the drunken men confessed, their newly-arrived wives kept shackled to wooden doors of huts, or kept by the town’s bar outside, mending slacks torn
from the field. How they love Chinese men. Just wait and see what she’ll do for you. The widow had been in mourning for so long, he knew the strength of a muted lake.
An excruciating lapse in which a skinned mule
had talked him out of leaping. The bride would turn her inscrutable face slightly towards him, and listen
to the private water roiling between them.
One night, she crept out through a hole in the paper, leaving him crippled in the darkness. Against her back, beneath the ragged shawl, her secret
baby sleeping.


Chigop Yosong: Fallen Woman


It was never hysterical. She had fled the border,
into a different border. The professor referred to her
as his only power, the flower of her torso spreading
a stemmed shadow across his floor. They were
many, indistinct sounds, ribbons reverberating in the bar
in rainbow shapes, girls, snacks, girls. Mushrooms, or
unearthed silk worms, or butterflies who flitted from
one man to another, trailing the perfume of whiskey
or pussy. It didn’t matter. As long as they were silky
in their silence, giggled at their obscene jokes, lapped
miles as the strobe light flickered, and the music jolted.
She watched from a distance, the others who knew
how to flutter the cards, trick bills into their hands.
Dream: the basket of woven grass and bead-like seeds
scattering into wind from her daughter’s hand,
the wrist so slim she could break a strand of hair
against the skin. The graves, the bones that would
pierce through dirt against the relentless sun,
the farmers glued to broken radios under tarpaper flaps,
the parades for the joyless Sun, the cartoons
of American troops with devil’s horns, the hours
she lost count as her stomach repelled hard grains
of unripe corn or whatever her daughter had scavenged
that day. She turned to his face, and erased.