Sangju

One of the best things I read this last year was a short post by Peter over at one thousand secret kings, which is a blog title so beautiful I wish I’d thought of it. This post is beautifully written and could be the start of a novel or a memoir. He’s not been updating of late. My fear is that he’s one of these talented young writers who don’t value what they can do because it is relatively easy for them, but in case he’s discouraged, send him some encouragement to write more.

Here’s an excerpt from the post “Sangju”:

My grandmother lived with us for the first few years we lived in the States. I was very young, and my memories from this time are all a sepia blur. Mostly it’s just impressions. She was very old even then — thinning snow-white hair a fright, thickly creased eyes weighted down by flaps of drooping flesh. She wore dull grey peasants’ clothes, sashes over petticoats and a tiny sheathed dagger at her neck, that probably looked anachronistic when she was a girl.

She never learned any English. She refused to look at the TV. She never acknowledged strangers on her morning walks. Her only connection to the outside world were the Korean newspapers my aunt would send to her at the end of every month, when they were weeks out of date and brittle and red with age. For all that I used to feel that my parents lived apart from the world of mainstream American culture my friends’ families all seemed to inhabit, my grandmother lived one step further removed, in a tiny bubble of reality of her own fashioning that had its own time and its own rules.

The neighborhood children were all scared of her. They called her a witch, and I think I believed them, because she was the one who taught me all of the superstitious nonsense my parents didn’t want me to know.

You can read the future in the way cards fall, and in the fight of birds.

Begin things when the moon is new, and never during its wane.

Wear your clothes inside out to confuse evil spirits.

Never cut your nails at night; cast the trimmings into the fire.

And so on.

I don’t believe any of this, you understand. This is the 21st century, and I’m not a superstitious man by nature. There is no place in my life for folk remedies and old wives’ tales.

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