Poetry: Camellia by Elane Kim

In “Camellia,” a mother teaches a daughter the quiet mysteries of womanhood; the speaker is taught to hold on to Seoul, to sing without a mouth, to listen to the mournful river.



The first thing a mother teaches

her daughter is that spines take root


where tongues end. The beginning

is only important if you let it


swallow you. Listen to the river,

the way it echoes. Look at the fruit


trees, the crepe myrtle, the white fence.

Let Seoul be a song you inherit. Let persimmon


peels collect, skin by skin. I can’t tell you

where my body stops & where yours starts,


only that we are what is left of summer,

all that has never stopped burning.


The incomplete combustion

of light. The last thing a mother teaches


her daughter is how to sing

without a mouth. Listen to the river,


the way it mourns. Look at the quiet bloom

& all the ways to drown in it.


Elane Kim

Elane Kim is a high school student based in California. Her writing has been recognized by the National YoungArts Foundation and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her work appears or is forthcoming in One Teen Story, Diode, and Rust + Moth, among others. She serves as the editor-in-chief of Gaia Lit.

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