I was conceived under a ginkgo tree,
next to my family hut. My family
planted the tree in fertile land, more
than three hundred years ago. I was a flower
plucked before I turned into yellow fruit,
ten years too early.
I am the blood and bones of my birth family.
I traveled halfway around the world.
I am the migrating fossil of my family,
still on the land I left 32 years ago.
My first two years I was uprooted
from family and land.
My mother left me in front of the orphanage.
My mother looked back at me
as I sat on a dilapidated concrete wall
next to unfamiliar flowers
and sage bushes.
My mother cried and desired nothing but to grab
me up in her arms and hold me.
I waited for my mother to come back
and cry when I realize,
for the first time,
my mother is not coming back.
we all bathed together.
we all went on walks together.
we all played in the park together.
we all ate rice and Korean soup
at the same table together.
I met my dad when I
got off the airplane.
I had to go to the bathroom.
My dad taped
us speaking. I spoke Korean
and he spoke English.
My dad always said, “Speak English.”
I was nationalized in Anchorage, Alaska,
On October 24, 1986,
The day I was nationalized
I was given an American flag.
I was given an American name.
I was given a new identity.
I had my own rights as an American citizen.
I kept my Korean name as my middle name.
I was nationalized the day my Uncle Gary died.
He only met me twice.
My home has history.
It survived the earthquake and tsunami of 1964,
One of the greatest earthquakes in history
Prince William Sound’s sea floor crumbled 14 miles-
the tsunami reached 219 feet above sea level.
My home, made of logs,
had been a barn, a bar, a home.
My parents first bought the home in 1978.
My dad built spiral steps upstairs.
That was not all they were used for:
when I was upset
I packed my checkered black and white bag
and acted like I was running away, while I cried.
I pouted about not getting the Magic Plastic Balloon Toy Maker
I wanted from the store.
I played house under the steps
or used the steps as a home for my Barbies.
Mom came home from work at 5:00 p.m.
to cook dinner for her family. As a family,
we sat at the dining room table at 6:30 p.m. to eat.
My home is still making history.
Juleen Eun Sun Johnson was born in Seoul, South Korea. She was adopted and taken to Valdez, Alaska, where she spent her formative years. Johnson earned an MFA in Visual Studies from PNCA. She’s currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her work has been published in: Cirque: A Literary Journal, Nervous Breakdown, The Rio Grande Review, Whiskey Island Magazine, Switchback, The Dunes Review, NECK Press, and other journals. She was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2018. Johnson currently writes and creates art in Portland, OR.