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.

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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