“Derealization” is a poem from Julie Heming’s honors thesis manuscript that she wrote last year at Carnegie Mellon University. Julie is a Korean-American adoptee born in Ilsan, South Korea. Her thesis explores her complex background growing up in a white family in Pennsylvania as she tries to figure out her own identity. Her tight, understated poems have a beautiful delicacy and a deceptive toughness as they deal with complex emotional issues. She knows just where to end her poems, which is a skill that will serve her well in the future. For such a young poet, she has a strong sense of craft. For example, in this poem, look at how she returns to the ghost and angel images at the end. Beautiful.
I left my body in Barnes & Noble,
sandwiched between the K’s and the N’s.
It’s called derealization. I call it
digging my nails into my palms
to slide back into my skin,
or sometimes, a visitation,
to check in on you, birth mother,
and the life I was one sesame seed
away from living.
I perch outside your apartment
window in Ilsan, watching
your black hair fall into your face.
I want you to see me hanging
out on your ledge in a shift of white,
hand almost pressed against the glass.
I can’t decide if I want to be a ghost
or an angel, what to do in this space
where we are neither here nor there.
You are mother but not.
I am Korean but not.
Snow begins to fall. My feet turn numb,
my nails dig harder into my skin.
By the time I am back to myself,
warm inside book-soaked light,
walking towards the magazines,
you finally look up.
But you’ve missed
both me and the snow.
When you look out your window,
all you see is melted flakes
like wing dust,