We are watching Iron Man again
and the portrait of my 할머니 hangs
on the wall where it has for years.
In it her hanbok is folded across her chest
like the wings of a paper crane.
I ask my daughter if she’d ever like to visit Korea.
She shrugs, looks at me strangely,
announces that she doesn’t feel Korean.
She has never eaten dried squid or kimchi,
has never walked the marketplace in 명동,
has never been to Jeju to see the brazen and glorious
pearl divers she was named after.
She has never bitten into a persimmon in November.
She can’t even swear in Korean.
Our dachshund stares at his reflection
in the fireplace door, wags his tail,
satisfied with the one who looks back at him.
On the screen Tony Stark builds his iron suit
from bomb parts, emerges from a cave
in a foreign land to obliterate the bad guys with only
his fearlessness and his flame-blasting gloves.
Why do you love this movie so much, I ask.
She looks at me as if there could only be one answer.
He tries to do his father’s work
but doesn’t let it hold him back.
He isn’t a superhero but he still flies.
Soon Tony Stark will announce who he really is.
My daughter will cheer, jump from the couch,
clap her hands the way she did as a toddler
in her crib when she saw me coming.
In the portrait, my 할머니 is still young
but her brow is already furrowed,
her hair, pinned loosely into a nest.
What you don’t see in the photo
are the birds above her
scattering in all directions.
Joan Kwon Glass is the mixed-race, Korean American author of How to Make Pancakes for a Dead Boy (Harbor Editions, 2022) and Poet Laureate for the city of Milford, CT. She has been a finalist for the Lumiere Review Award and the Subnivean Award, and her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Joan's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Rattle, Rust & Moth, Kissing Dynamite, Literary Mama, Mom Egg, and many others. She is a public school teacher and mother of three. • Photo by the author