September Lit: "Haenya (Abalone Huntress) Dancing" by Jean Kim

September 15, 2015

(Image Credit: Walter via Flickr)

For September we bring you a lovely poem about the Korean abalone divers. The rich imagery of the sea juxtaposed against the current, more pop culture references makes for a surprising characterization that illustrates the strength and grace of these women.

--Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor

Haenya (Abalone Huntress) Dancing

Mermaids in tire rubber
Rise from the murk-surf,
More like Rosie than Bo or Ursula— 

Who knew deep sea dives,
Domain of sleek seals,
To be a rough profession— 

Butch ocean car mechanics
Sturdy like the East German team—
Forget the dainty teahouse dances— 

Here’s the seaweed queen in algae garters,
Atlas with breasts, Poseidon in drag,
Focused like fishermen fighting squalls, 

With pincers delicate like micro-scalpels,
Sifting sand like Nevada miners—
Aya! Pouncing like rabid kittens 

Who dragnet the craggy gems upward—
Bonnie, flush with cash, leaves Clyde—
Lady Macbeth’s dagger knows 

The secrets of opening wide, raping shells—
This pearl-lined locket holds no picture—
The sweetmeat sings the radical lyrical, 

Bonbon mollusk musk, shuck and suck,
Dissected with callous purpose,
Abalone anatomy 101, first life, 

Protean squirming in original soup—
The juicy circuit collapses in teeth,
This Amazon scuba gleans honey— 

Scuttling seas is no easy task.
These Catwomen make it look easy,
Like nautical builders shaving warships, 

Like artisans blowing Venetian glass—
Cinderella is a truck driver
Mouthing off with no regrets.


Jean Kim

Jean Kim is a psychiatrist and writer working in Washington, DC. She received her M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins, where she won an Outstanding Graduate Award in 2015. She has work published or forthcoming in The Rumpus, The Toast, Niche Literary Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, The Tishman Review, Storyscape Journal, Gargoyle, and more.