Photographs from 1950 by Eric Pak

Photographs from 1950

When I was just a boy, before the first bullets flew at Osan
and children waded through rubble to school, my father
always told me stories of how recruits metamorphosed
into iron soldiers. How they bore chests embellished by
medals and wore boots that gleamed under the moon. He
told me he knew a private who was just seventeen, a young
man with wide shoulders and a fire in his eyes. His parents
shipped him off to Osan to honor the family name. After four
weeks, the boy returned with sunken cheeks and cracked lips,
fingers corroded by ice. His parents showered him with Poppies
and spooned him ginseng until he’s bereft of small joys.
Months later, father and the boy would fight in the Battle of Seoul
where the boy’s corpse would return in a coffin of threads.
Sewn shut as the wood peeled away under December frost.
For a year, the village mourned with shards of ginseng.
The other parents drank themselves dry,
before sending in their sons.


Eric Pak is a 17-year-old Korean-American living in Thailand. He has lived in diverse countries around the world and aims to share his experiences through his writing. His works have previously been published in K’in Literary Journal, The Paper Crane Journal and The Cathartic Literary Magazine. In his free time, he likes running and eating enchiladas.



In frames, on poster boards, on tabletops
in the downstairs parlor of the funeral home
that humid evening in mid-August, low lighting
from wall sconces and brass lamps, loveseats
and chairs arranged to look like invitations,
so many people examining and exclaiming over all
that proof of my father’s long and irrepressible life;
I could only glance from a distance, I wanted only
to stand halfway between the overwrought mahogany
coffin my stepmother picked out, and the back of the room
where water was being served, surely it should have
been wine, my father merited the good wine I said to myself
standing there among the murmuring and respectful living,
holding on to my center the way I knew how
somewhere in the middle of the room.


Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. You can find her poems many places online and in print, most recently in Spirituality & Health Magazine, Braided Way, Buddhist Poetry Review, and Poetry East. She is actively working on a new collection of poems entitled Her Joy Becomes.