Becoming Realer: Identity, Craft and the MFA is a column that explores issues of poetry, theory and writing craft in relation to the personal experiences of Saint Mary’s College of California Creative Writing MFA candidate and LR staff writer, Kelsay Myers.
I can’t remember if I imagined Korea as a child. I must have. I put the rainbow-striped shoes that were sent with me from Busan when I was three-months old high on a shelf in my bedroom, in a place where I could look at them but not touch them. Sometimes, I would ask my mother to take down the shoes, wondering if that would be the day they’d finally fit on my feet. That day never came. They were too big each time. I’d fall down trying to walk in them. Eventually I forgot about wanting to wear them, and when I did remember they were up on that shelf again, they were so small that they pinched my feet. I used to think the moral of this story was that the shoes never fit just right. That, in the same way, Korea would never fit just right, but now I see even greater meaning in the fact that I was the one who put the shoes in a place where I could look at them, but not feel them.
That is the true moral of the story. I’m still afraid to feel Korea. It’s more comfortable in the abstract, or as a rainbow-colored shoe that will never fit, than as an actual thing that I can put my arms around or stick my feet in. It’s more comfortable as a symbol than a country, as a metaphor than a reality.