Wearing Woman

Is that a boy or a girl?

Two little girls giggle halfway hidden

behind a door, simple question in the air.

It doesn’t sting. Not the way the ajummas’[1. Middle aged or older woman]

words spoken through you

turn you into standing room only

bus spectacle.

On days you feel vulnerable,

picked open like a sore,  

your eyes wander. You look at women

half your size, hair smooth like running water,

voice like cotton candy, light and sweet.


You begin to wonder if you’ve lost your woman.

You cannot find her in their definition

but you see her in mirrors–darker-skinned,

tall, broad in hip and shoulder.


Woman wakes you in the morning.  

Short haired and fiery,

she whispers, “You’re beautiful”

through a forest of curls and coils

to the reflection of a naked face.

She helps you get dressed,

putting aside skirt

forgoing necklace, ring and bracelet

abandoning comb and clip

for lips lined apple red.

She stops in the doorframe.

She can’t come with you.

Not the way you want–picket sign

Woman stitched in gold

across your chest.

You wear her small.

Sometimes you catch her watching you–

the reflection of a window,

black monitor screen–alien beauty,

stranger here than anywhere in the world,

defiantly woman, and proud.

Kayla Smith is a 2015-2016 ETA at Gimcheon Dasu Elementary School in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do.