Summer smoke

Cigarette smoke in the summer heat
Evokes memories of:
Small neighborhood arcades, where machines eat up coin after coin,
Strikers 1945, Gunbird, Metal Slug.
Ha! Flamethrower! Take that, mummies!

Memories of:
Spicy fermented cabbage and buckwheat noodles,
Bean paste stew and broiled fish.
Soups, stews, and casseroles aren’t just a Midwest thing,
Although there’s less tater tots and more bean sprouts.

Of:
Banana milk and walnut ice cream,
Pepero and fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste,
Dried squid and shrimp crackers,
Seaweed and Chilsung Cider.

:
Conversations over seafood pancakes and rice liquor
With your aunts and uncles,
Telling you how your parents met
At a group hang out where your dad was supposed to meet your mom’s friend
But he saw your mom and never looked back.

And then asking when you will meet a nice Korean girl.

Cigarette smoke in the summer heat
Evokes memories of a place that
Isn’t quite home,
Isn’t quite foreign,
But an elsewhere to which I belong, somehow.

Seriously, Korean men smoke a lot. It’s a significant public health concern.

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