Elegy with Mayfly Sex


Love, I want to tell you all I learned today

of the mayfly, known for their one-day life spans.

How they’re named after the fact of their fast deaths:

ephemeroptera, briefest of wings. How this isn’t fully true,

as they can live submerged as nymphs for years until their sex

forces them out of the water. Just because we don’t see

their living doesn’t make it void. You drape a quilt over

our bare bodies to prove it, hidden but suddenly heat.

Elsewhere, a girl is unearthed from a shallow grave, her body

veiled with trash bags. The heat hastens her rebecoming of earth

until her father who identifies her can’t get through the interview

without weeping. She was my baby girl, he says.

In Ann Arbor, we watch the asphalt outside grow sheathed

with sleet, the trees in deep slumber. Her murder

was sexually motivated, I read. Give me the world

where she rises from mud. Where the crush

of her skull uncollapses itself, the penumbra

of every knife wound stitched shut. Where the blood seeps

back in simply because she deserves it. Deserves better.

Again, oxygen. Again, stuttering, hard-earned breath.

Again, hyacinth persimmons laid flat on her tongue with love.

Love, what are my chances? In each woman washed cerulean

on a shore, shot or sunk in an oil drum, I see the face

of every woman I love and yes, selfishly, myself.

White bloat of salt, ejected from the lake’s anonymous vine

for my mother to identify. Every summer, the mayflies

come out of the water and blot out the blue with the fervor

of their coupling. They rarely make landfall alive. In midair,

the males grip the females and don’t let go until they’re done.

Spent, the males hover towards land, coating windshields

in a burial of wings and swift desiccation. The girls return

to the water to lay their eggs, then spread their wings

flat against the surface and drift until the fish come to feed.

Forgive me, I didn’t initially mean to draw parallels

between male mayflies and what human men so often do

to girls of their own species. The man online who says,

can you blame them? Under a photo of the victim smiling

in swimwear. Or the other who tells me, I only want to gently

rape. Someday, I’ll draw a knife from my open and brandish my sex

like a weapon. When given the choice to leave the lake or stay,

I’ll turn my face towards my sisters and choose to stay.




Diptych of my Great Aunt in 1953


Baby brother, I’ve counted coins

under a fat apple moon as soldiers

scraped skin off the rocks outside.

Your tuition in hand, I am naked

as dusk. The husk of my hanbok

unfurled before a flag whose stars

I’ve laid under— stunned

________night after night.


Somehow I was a virgin before this.


They call me “western wife”

or rag. Is the moniker still wretched

if it becomes literally true? Soon

I will follow a white man to America,

his war-relic bride. How to tell you

without vacating all trust?


Tell me again of love

and its dark mirrors:

well-skinned pear, our cheeks

in the dust. The wet shred

of a body,


Your voice carrying

clear over the threshold,

Sister, welcome home

before you turned

to embrace me.


“ ”


My dear,

the war

is over.

A distant

country

tells me

we are

split.





JIHYUN YUN is a Korean-American Poet from California’s Bay Area. She received her BA from UC Davis and her MFA from New York University. A winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, her debut collection Some Are Always Hungry is forthcoming in September 2020 from University of Nebraska Press. A Fulbright Research Fellow, her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Adroit Journal, Best New Poets and elsewhere.