be(longing)

Photo by Zoya Hsiao

I wrote this poem while I was an ETA on Jeju in the winter of 2016. I was in the bout of severe homesickness, experiencing snow for the first time and missing my sunny Southern California life. This reflects the period I went through before adjustment—realizing that I didn’t fit in or feel comfortable and not yet seeing a way beyond those feelings. Spoiler alert: things did get better (after a while).

be(longing)

in this bedroom that is not my own,
my clothes are bundled in cubby holes
resembling the goodwill pile i left in LA.
wet clothes hung inside, a clinging funk
bearing no resemblance to the florals of home.
the windows open to more windows,
not blue sky over mountains and palm trees.
i can take a bus to see camellias bloom,
but in LA, the flowers blossom beneath my window,
reminding me of my coming birthday.
a shelf and a half feels crowded and burdensome
in this bathroom i still don’t recognize.
i keep forgetting where the clippers are,
my nails dig painfully into the toes of my shoes.
even my body begins to feel foreign,
expanding and reshaping itself,
what i consume beyond my control.
no solace in skin or mind.
at least the fact of a choice in this—
to board the plane, the bus,
the elevator to the apartment door—
is mine.


Maggie Deagon was a 2016 – 2017 ETA at Jeju Jungang Girls High School in Jeju City. When she is not writing poems about lost love, she is chronicling her wandering food adventures at femalegraze.food.blog.