Subscribe To Our
Poetrybay Blog on Facebook

Winter 2019/20

Tanya Ko Hong


Johnny was white-boy pretty:
pale skin and soft gold hair
shone even more in the sun,

his eyes
blue glass marbles
reflecting me

Old people in our town pointed
and called him tiki,
the mixed child,
but never in front of his mother,

her face powdered white as dog bone.
The women say, You’re so pretty
but when she wasn’t there,
That Yang Kalbo,
her lips look
like she’s eaten mice.

Her long false eyelashes could hold match sticks
under her Crayola sapphire eyelids.

Johnny’s big nosed GI daddy
Wore black-framed eyeglasses.

Johnny would climb
over the wall topped with
broken glass and
we plucked honeysuckle,
sipped the nectar
we loved
more than Ritz Crackers and milk.

One day he said “An airplane will take me away
to America,”
then pointed at the sky and played
his lip like a kazoo.

I replied that I’d rather take a bus or train.


When I saw him again,
years later in Honolulu, sitting
alone with a beer,
he wore
glasses like his father’s.

When I say, “hi” to him
in Korean,
he said,  “I don’t remember Korea.”

Still, I remember
the sweet honeysuckles
we plucked
and sipping the nectar
we loved more than Ritz Crackers and milk.


Tanya Ko Hong (Hyonhye) is a poet, translator, and cultural-curator who champions bilingual poetry and poets. She is the author of five books: The War Still Within (KYSO Flash Press, 2019); Mother to Myself, a collection of poems in Korean (Prunsasang Press, 2015); Yellow Flowers on a Rainy Day (Oma Books of the Pacific, 2003); Mother’s Diary of Generation 1.5 (Qumran, 2002); and Generation 1.5 (Korea: Esprit Books, 1993).  Tanya was one of two writers to receive the inaugural Yun Dong-ju Korean-American Literature Award in 2018.


Poetrybay seeks fine poetry, reviews, commentary and essays without restriction in form or content, and reserves first electronic copyright to all work published. All rights to published work revert to the author following publication. All Email submissions should be in body of email text.

To submit poems write to:

PO Box 114 
Northport NY 11768
or email us at

send comments to

first electronic copyright 2004
©2018 poetrybay. 
all rights revert to authors

website comments to