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elegy: record of train tracks -- poetry by Rina Olsen


“. . . the suicide rate among Korean descendants in Japan. . . has consistently been higher than that for the overall rate and the rate for other ethnic groups in Japan. For example, ministry data for 2020, the latest available, found there were 16.7 suicides per 100,000 people in Japan. For ethnic Koreans in Japan, however, the figure rises to 28.4 per 100,000. This is compared to 25.7 per 100,000 in South Korea.”

—Gen Okada, Asahi Shimbun


the trains stopped for you / today / because you’d / gone and flung yourself / between the tongues of a lamellophone. You / “hit the ground running” / as you / always did, running to something illuminated / from behind by a single beam. have you / ever noticed how a train’s jolts / are shaped like a heartbeat? i pluck / the lamellophone in bed, and in the vacuum / between sleep and wakefulness / i look / out the window and climb into the throat of the train station / to look for the petrichor buried under Jacob’s ladder. you / must have found it, nailing it / in place in the dark aorta that pumps hundreds of / names every day and is / now clotted with yours. / names are the first lesson in living, aren’t they? / your / body in the lamellophone must have looked / like an unforeign name peeling off a tongue, / like a dark tea leaf caressing the bottom / of a porcelain cup the way a comma / does a breath. the comma between your / clipped wing and the train’s shuddering pulse. names escape me. when i got / off the train, the chicken i’d bought / for dinner / was still warm. when i opened / it at home, question marks / flew out. or it might have been wisps of hair. i don’t / know. there is nothing to know / anymore, / except where we are going. the chicken was / good. i’ll buy / another tomorrow, and / curl into a fetal position in the womb of a train ticket / being punched. i’ll fog / the pane with my breath, and write my name in / it, and i’ll watch it fade into the indigo evening. i / promise.



 

Rina Olsen, a high school junior from Guam, is the author of Third Moon Passing (Atmosphere Press, June 2023). A 2024 YoungArts winner in the Writing: Novel category, she has been recognized by the John Locke Institute, the Sejong Cultural Society, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association, and Guam History Day. Her most recent work was published in Èlan Literary Magazine, Milk Candy Review, and Thimble Literary Magazine. When she isn't writing, Rina can be found playing the piano, looking up obscure history, or with her nose in a good book. Find out more at her website: http://rinaolsen.com/

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