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"have you seen my father" by Jaeyun Yoo

have you seen my father by Jaeyun Yoo
Winner of the 2023 Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem
walk home past the Han River?
paisley tie tight as a soda cap
after twelve hours trading stocks
belly-deep bows
to grey men twirling fountain pens.
have you seen the ashtray grow
into an ant hill, my father spins
round and round, a rain of layoffs.
hope hides in a weathervane
pointing across the East Sea
and never did I learn how to say goodbye
other than my father and grandfather
chain-smoking at the airport parking lot.
have you seen my father ring ring ring
onions, condoms and gum
at Save-On-Foods, or have you
unseen my father, playing tetris
with udon bowls and chopsticks
a dishwasher at some sushi joint.
bank statements are coasters
for rice wine, each spill
blurs the ink, blackens his thumb.
he sits under the starry glow
of slot machines, pulls the lever
again and again
as if loosening a fire hydrant
and he is a burning house.
I have seen how
autumn is mourned by a leaf
gently pressed inside a book 
and learned grace in grief —
have you seen my father
carry city lights on his glasses
as he sleeps on the midnight bus.
Jaeyun Yoo is a Korean-Canadian poet, psychiatrist, and graduate of Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio. A Best of the Net nominee, her poems have appeared in Room, Canthius, CV2, and elsewhere. She published a collaborative chapbook, Brine, with Harbour Centre 5, a collective of emerging poets.