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By Emily Jungmin Yoon

In my country our shamans were women

and our gods multiple until white people brought

an ecstasy of rosaries and our cities today

glow with crosses like graveyards. As a child

in Sunday school I was told I’d go to hell

if I didn’t believe in God. Our teacher was a woman

whose daughters wanted to be nuns and I asked

What about babies and what about Buddha, and she said

They’re in hell too and so I memorized prayers

and recited them in front of women

I did not believe in. Deliver us from evil.

O sweet Virgin Mary, amen. O sweet. O sweet.

In this country, which calls itself Christian,

what is sweeter than hearing Have mercy

on us. From those who serve different gods. O

clement, O loving, O God, O God, amidst ruins,

amidst waters, fleeing, fleeing. Deliver us from evil.

O sweet, O sweet. In this country,

point at the moon, at the stars, point at the way the lake lies,

with a hand full of feathers,

and they will look at the feathers. And kill you for it.

If a word for religion they don’t believe in is magic

so be it, let us have magic. Let us have

our own mothers and scarves, our spirits,

our shamans and our sacred books. Let us keep

our stars to ourselves and we shall pray

to no one. Let us eat

what makes us holy.


Source: Poetry (November 2017)

  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Emily Jungmin Yoon
Born in Busan, Republic of Korea, Emily Jungmin Yoon earned her BA in English and communication at the University of Pennsylvania and her MFA in creative writing at New York University, where she served as an award editor for the Washington Square Review and received a Starworks Fellowship. She is the poetry editor for The Margins, the literary magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and is pursuing a PhD in Korean literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. In 2017, Yoon was a recipient of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. See More By This Poet

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