Bouquet of Spring Promises

Awakened from spring drowsiness,
toasty warm within quilts warmed by the ondool floor,
a floor heated by the ashes of coal and wood
pushed in from the kitchen hearth.

Mother chided us to dress,
and go into the hill to bring home
the tender herbs to make namool,
a salad mixed with sesame oil and vinegar.

Grimacing into cold dresses,
we gulped the warm, steaming rice
with pieces of salted black beans
and bites of radish kim-chee.

Slipping on our rubber shoes,
we ran through the front dirt yard,
scattered cackling chickens
and dodged bell-clanging goats.

Pushing open the massive wooden door, into the field,
we ran looking at two girls swinging higher and higher,
standing together on a wooden slat, heads thrust back,
upward into the sky of apple blossoms.

We rushed through gardens reeking with night soil,
filled with green onion and lettuce.
We balanced with outstretched arms,
on mounds dividing the rice paddies.

Up the hill, scampering zig-zag to outwit snakes,
we picked the stooped poppies, calling them grandmothers.
Finding the green sprigs, we pinched the tops,
or pulled the entire plant of leaves, roots and clinging dirt.

We rushed back to mother,
our hands full with bouquets of spring promises.

—Portia Choi

Portia Choi

Portia Choi hosts the monthly First Friday Open Mic and publicizes events during National Poetry Month in April. She administers She published a chapbook of her poems Sungsook, Korean War Poems. Her poems are published in multiple journals. She can be contacted at

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