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After a few nomadic years, we settled
into a split-level house nestled in a cul-de-sac
away from bustling boroughs, but never
far from wraiths of sprawling estates & train
tracks that cleaved privilege & affluence
from our constant state of deprivation.

A latchkey kid—I often stole
away to the basement chock full of vinyl
bags of worn clothes & box skyscrapers
reeking mothballs—my mother an expert
magpie of all things already discarded. Built-in
bar next to the boiler, deserted & unused,
became Barbie’s mansion: multi-storied
cross-sections of elaborate chambers rivaling
any store-bought imitations. Unlike classmates
who had entire Mattel playrooms filled
with glittery toys & miniature Pepto pink
Corvettes, my Barbie only owned one other
casual outfit—so I made sure Ken engaged
in easy conversation, half-lying
on a couch made from fabric swatches,
mimicking what I saw on The Young & the Restless.

In the throat of this hidden cave, I inhabited
whiteness without retribution. No longer
ching-chong China girl—I, a ravishing blonde
trophy with her perfect proportions. Pipedream:
I wondered what it would be like to strip away
slit eyes—sick of assimilation; the debilitating
task of tireless reinvention. Then came
the right solution: press curling iron
to sculpt a familiar countenance, black magic
marker graffitied over golden tresses. In horrific
absolution, I beheld plastic melt into a gooey mess.
Oh, the glorious stink of burning rubber!

Without further pomp or ballyhoo, I buried her
in the backyard by a stand of evergreens with
Ken for good measure, a pinecone in lieu of
a headstone to lie in peace—forever.

Su Hwang is an award-winning (and sometimes, not) poet whose debut poetry collection Bodega is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2019. Born in Seoul, she called NYC and SF home before transplanting to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, where she received her MFA in Poetry. She teaches creative writing with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, helps out at Motionpoems, and is the co-founder of Poetry Asylum, a community-based organization with poet & activist Sun Yung Shin in Minneapolis. Visit her at

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