Shinji Moon is a Korean American poet, who studied Postcolonial Studies and Poetry at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She published her debut book The Anatomy of Being, a collection of poems, in 2013. The book is an inward journey into the life of a young woman. She takes you along as she delves deeper into her flesh and bones and heart and soul. It is an achingly beautiful collection of poems, divided into four chapters, each presenting a perspective on adolescence and its hopes and pains. I came across Shinji Moon’s poetry in 2014, when I was in the eleventh grade, when a friend made me read one of her poems. Since then, I find myself going back to her poetry and every single time I leave a little piece of myself tucked in the spaces between her words.
Suggested read: Queer Poetry On Love That You Must Read
Here are some of my most favorite excerpts from poems by Shinji Moon, some of which are featured in her book An Anatomy of Being.
“Tell me”, Baby girl said, “Have you ever been kissed?
in the night , with the
moon roof wide open, the thick leaves like dark banks that the sky
Rivered through, I shook my head slow, and she gave me her clammy hands
And Baby girl, with apple slice- me. Sugar on her pink. Pink on my tongue.
Melted in me; oh sweet; oh low; hair coiled together. Copper wire flint.
Little fins in our chest sput-sputter; sput and sputter, our mouths
Small and forgiving, like bows shooting arrows and pinning apples to the trees.”
This is an excerpt from the poem Baby Girl’s Got A Kiss Like Sparkle Sticks which was published by Winter Tangerine as part of their spotlight feature titled Fragments of Persephone that aims to create a dialogue about the contrasting nature of the perceived notions of femininity and womanhood and the reality of it.
Shinji Moon’s poem, one among the many written about a myriad of experiences of womanhood, has a quaint feeling about it. It reminds me of the taste of sweet mangoes on a summer afternoon, the pulp sticking all over my hands and face. When I read this poem for the first time, it made me nostalgic and left me longing for a childhood that wasn’t even mine. This poem explores sexuality from the perspectives of someone young, someone who hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but who constantly finds herself drawn to something that her mama would probably want her to stay away from. Baby Girl is enticing, she’s different, possibly even a little dangerous, but she’s oh-so-sweet. And like candy floss, sticky-sweet-pink-sugar candy floss, their lips melt into each other as soon as they touch. It’s gentle and quiet and nerve-racking but just right.
“You are beautiful because you let yourself feel, and that is a brave thing indeed”
Because the world needs more people who let themselves feel. Feel love, loss, heartbreak, pain, joy, fear, anger, everything. Feel every single emotion that washes over your being, because as human beings that is all we can do really. Feel and don’t ever beat yourself up for it, feel and be proud of it. Feel and let the world know that you’re feeling because that’s the biggest favor you can do for it.
“I almost miss the sound of your voice but know that the rain
outside my window will suffice for tonight.
I’m not drunk yet, but we haven’t spoken in months now
and I wanted to tell you that someone threw a bouquet of roses
in the trash bin on the corner of my street, and I wanted to cry
because, because —
you know exactly why.”
Taken from her poem “If I Left You A Voice Mail, This Would Be It”, these lines seem like they’re about to spill over with the sadness and heartache they hold within any second now. Moon has a way with words- she’s always so honest, and so heartbreakingly vulnerable. She knows what it’s like to have your heart broken and ripped to shreds, and she also knows how to put it back together, piece by piece; waiting for the scars to hopefully vanish with the passage of time to make way for new ones.
“But it’s that time of the year again, and
calendar sales keep reminding us all that we can never get back
to where we once wanted so bad to lose ourselves in
Reading this poem feels like being stuck in undiscovered space between two moments, a gap in time that is both fleeting and infinite; it lasts less than a millisecond but also seems to stretch on forever. “It Took Time” is a poem about regret, about longing, it is about “that quiet sense of something loss” that very few mortals can articulate into poetry. This poem, and these lines in particular, reminisce with sadness, the loss of a year gone by and the realization of our inability to go back to it. No matter how hard we try, we can never go back to the moments we so desperately want to relive and lose ourselves in. The end of the year, with its bittersweet transition into the new, is a living reminder of this human condition and no one understands that better than Moon.
“There is a shipwreck between your ribs. You are a box with
fragile written on it, and so many people have not handled you
And for the first time, I understand that I will never know
how to apologize for being
one of them.”
Sometimes, whether we’d like to admit or not, we’re the culprits behind the breaking of someone’s heart. Sometimes we get so caught up in self preservation and being kind to ourselves, we forget that it can come at the cost of a broken heart that may have already been breaking at the seams. And we realize, we have no excuse, no justification, no apology that will make it even slightly better for the other person. We took the box with fragile written on it, tore it apart, broke its contents and now we don’t know how to deal with the mess. Sometimes, we’re the bad guys and we don’t even realize it. “What It Took To Understand” is about coming to terms with your own demons and realizing that sometimes there is nothing you can do about them.
Suggested read: Phil Kaye Is The Dumbledore Of Spoken Word Poetry! Here’s Why
“One day you’ll wake up and realize that you are too big for your own skin.
Don’t be afraid.
Your body is a house where the shutters blow in and out against the windowpane.
You are a hurricane- prone area.
The glass will break through often.
But it’s okay. I promise.”
This is a poem that I find myself repeatedly going back to because of how simple and true and relatable it is. “Here’s What Our Parents Never Taught Us” is a poem that teaches you things no one else in the world will bother to tell you. Moon has unraveled these secrets and she’s sharing it with us, whispering it gently in our ears until we have these lessons memorized by heart. She’s telling us that it’s okay to change, to not feel comfortable in your own skin. Learn to build yourself a new skin like the lizard on your wall does, your soul is growing every minute and sometimes you need a bigger fit to accommodate it. Never be ashamed of your body, it is a battlefield; a survivor of storms and hurricanes and calamities no one can even begin to imagine. You will break and fall and bleed and stutter and hurt and cry and scream; but it’s okay. It always is.
“I think we all speak a different kind of language
than each other, but you sound a whole lot like coffee on a
Sunday morning and the rain is falling bitter against the windowpane”
“He Loves The Rain” is the lazy afternoon you spent kissing your lover between the freshly laundered sheets with only the sound of drizzling rain keeping you company, and the hope in your heart that this day will stretch on forever even though you know that infinities never last. It is the comfortable silence that permeates you as you sit and count the raindrops dancing on the glass; elbows touching, and igniting a fire within you at the slightest brush of skin against skin. This poem by Shinji Moon reminds me of the giddiness I feel every time I see the person I love, which is always accompanied by this strange desire to be as humanly close to them as possible.
“You will fall in love with train rides,
And sooner or later you will realize
That nowhere seems like home anymore.”
This is another excerpt from “Here’s What Our Parents Never Taught Us” and reminds me time and again that home is never a permanent place that exists independent of time. Home is anything that you want it to be, and sometimes it is nothing at all. And that’s okay. It’s okay to fall in love with the journey, not knowing what the destination is going to be. Sometimes there’s stillness even in motion, a moment of permanence stuck between transient motions, and maybe that’s where home was all along.
Suggested read: Here’s Why Poetry Matters Now More Than Ever
There are a multitude of poems by the poet that did not make it to this list, but each one is just as beautiful and honest as the other. I’d suggest reading her poetry collection to not just get a better understanding of Moon’s writing, but also to read some truly amazing poetry.
Featured image source: Instagram