Public Mourning

by Jenifer Park

When I left for Alabama I was told
Southern families are much like Korean families

& though I didn’t know exactly what was meant by this
I agreed. The first time I saw a magnolia tree

in complete blossom I didn’t know what it was.
Each magnolia, a skull dropped & smoothed in a river.

Each petal, a ladle for a milky stew. The expanse
of the flower, an expanse of a snowy field.

I cradled one back to rest in a jar. I admit
I’m interested in the most effective

way to delete my body. It’s an obsession
with conclusions. Chemical, I’m advised to think.

Sickness. Though it was a single flower out of many
I loved it incredibly. I forget each thing I put in a jar

is destined to die quickly. I left the house
with a plan. Inside the magnolia are chemicals

that defend against bacteria. Inside a schedule for saving.
I remind myself I’m innately equipped. I watched

the magnolia rust before I threw it away. Cracking between
my fingers, it left a trail from the table to the trash can. In Korea

we bury our dead under mounds. These bulbs
pimple the countryside. I’ve seen people

dressed in white standing over a mound.
Magnolias crying over their fruit. I was disappointed

in the magnolia’s lack of resistance.
It should’ve lived so much longer

though detached from its source. I can’t forgive
myself for going against nature, for carrying inside

a whiteness for dying.

Denver transplant JENIFER PARK lives in Tuscaloosa where she is completing her MFA in poetry at the University of Alabama. Her work can be seen in Copper Nickel, Evening Will Come (The Volta), Sundog Lit, Mid-American Review, and Word Riot, and is forthcoming from Handsome.