For The Love Of L.A. - "Coming Home" by Chiwan Choi
My family left South Korea before I’d started kindergarten. I was around five and still didn’t know what ‘home’ really was, other than where my mother was, let alone what a ‘nation’ or ‘immigration’ meant.
We then lived in Paraguay, a country we then left just as I was learning Spanish.
By the time we got to the U.S., to Los Angeles, I was a 10-years old with no languages and no sense of home.
“Coming Home” is a poem that speaks of my connection to Los Angeles, the only place I have ever felt was home to me. It’s where my family lives, where my parents will pass, the city that fed me, nurtured me, toughened me and taught me about love and community.
It’s the place I always long for no matter where I am, no matter where I may be one day.
coming home from my morning walk i see my father sprinting at full speed his left hand clutching at the purse
he uses to carry his bible and bus pass
his body leaning forward as if
he is trying to break through a wall mom is few yards behind him
her short legs pumping as fast as they can to keep her from losing contact
they are running to the bus stop on 7th and Main headed to some market
that is having a sale
on scallions or pork butt.
they don’t see me
i don’t call to them
we are immigrants a family in motion
touching the surface of continents
that never belonged to us
but i rarely ride the bus with them anymore
the only time i remember from
the past 20 years
is when i rode the 18 bus to virgil and 3rd to see her doctor about her liver failing.
i held her hand on that ride.
it has been a beautiful summer, an extended stay
in Los Angeles, my home. the familiarity of the streets and the noise and the tastes and the people,
the people, their brown faces and brown skin and the words that come out of their mouths every day harmonizing.
i call LA my home and it's funny how i catch myself saying it as if i'm lying about it because i wasn't born here
and i don't even have an address here for now.
i say home because it feels right.
i say home because i need to.
there are also my parents who are too busy breaking
to be happy that i've been here every day for almost two months.
today i was at their place in Little Tokyo
and as i watched dad asleep on one chair and mom watching pirated korean drama with the sound off on the other chair,
i wondered whether my home is also aging, breaking,
i have prepared my whole life to say goodbye to my parents.
even if i fail at it when the moment comes, i have prepared for it.
but i don't know how to not say home anymore.
i don't know how to watch the sky above Los Angeles that isn't really blue
die and disappear.
Chiwan Choi is the author of three books of poetry, The Flood (Tía Chucha Press, 2010), Abductions (Writ Large Press, 2012) and The Yellow House (CCM, 2017). He wrote, presented and destroyed the novel Ghostmaker throughout the course of 2015.
Choi’s poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including The New York Times Magazine, ONTHEBUS, Esquire.com, and The Nervous Breakdown. Choi is a partner at Writ Large Press< and a member of The Accomplices. He was born in Seoul, Korea, spent his early childhood in Asunción, Paraguay, and now splits his time between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. He is currently working on a new book, my name is wolf.
Artist Q + A
Curated by Luis J. Rodriguez
"Los Angeles is one of the most literary and poetic cities anywhere. I make that bold statement after being the city’s poet laureate from 2014 to 2016. During my tenure, I spoke to around 35,000 people in close to 300 venues and events—and millions more in mass media. If we have the most homeless, some of the worst violence, social inequities and injustices, we just haven’t imagined far enough. Poetry, as a beacon in the dark, can help illuminate our way. The poets featured here are the far-seeing and deep-feeling writers and activists I’ve had the privilege to know and work with. Shonda Buchanan, Chiwan Choi and Luivette Resto present poems and videos For The Love Of L.A. that swim in language and imagery, but also in generative ideas. I’m honored to present them here with their vital voices, stories and passions."