Hungry Ghost

My girlfriend became a hungry ghost on the

4th of August, twig-necked with skin as wet

as gasoline, needlepoint mouth unable to keep

down anything. We met on a language exchange

 

app, me the English teacher who’d swooped into

Hongdae like a sudden wind, her the ulzzang who

dreamed of opening a BBQ restaurant in America.

She drank raw crab like honey, soy sauce pooling

 

into the hollow of her throat, while I graded papers

on the carpet of her studio, my tongue burning from the

instant noodles she’d promised, giggling, would not be

spicy. I remember her tapping on cherry lip tint in

 

the hallway mirror, her kisses humming down my spine

like glitter, the yellow rented bike that was always

slick with mud because she loved to punch through

the rain. Fried chicken and beer at 3 a.m.,

 

Konglish by the river. Neon outlines of buildings,

bamboo sheets under black leaves. Easy to be crushed by

loneliness in the big city. Now she fakes a tremor of

a heartbeat just for me. She left behind a mother who

 

runs a mandu stall in Busan, a ten-year-old brother

lost in video games. I watch the sun ripple over the

Han River like tiny blades. Her jawline was chiseled

down to a single point, eyelids puffy and stitched

 

into anime hugeness, an exoskeletal body, the red

cracks showing. Now she sits in a room, waiting.

Food turns to dust under her touch, everything

crumbling. A wound blooms, a slow burning.

 

“I didn’t want to die,” she tells me one night,

her words tucked between my shoulder blades.

“I just wanted someone to see me.”

 

I am a stranger in Seoul,

made stranger by what I am

about to do. The lantern cuts

through the river like a knife,

carving out a freedom, a warm

knowing. The sky doesn’t fall

the night she departs, hooked to

a light of my own making. I watch

her float across the dim silence,

the stars still uncracked, the moon

still so full, the water just a

flow of tears now, the incense

already old.

 

She always said I wasn’t just a teacher,

but a connector of worlds—

Millie Ho

Millie Ho’s work appears or is forthcoming from Lightspeed MagazineNightmare MagazineStrange HorizonsFireside Magazine, and others. She was nominated for a 2019 Rhysling Award and is a graduate of Clarion West. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Montreal. Find her at millieho.net and on Twitter @Millie_Ho.

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