The Kumiho Cooks Pajeon
He expects me to know how to
fold plump stalks of green onion
into batter and light the fire, to cut
those milky-white cloves that sting
my nose, make me yelp, bare
my teeth. If I sink to all fours now,
I’ll be flame-colored frenzy
desperate to escape the smoke,
unable to find the forest.
I will be only animal in a cage.
He gives me slender peppers
that burn my skin. He is surprised
I cannot wield a knife, that this
delicate kind of slicing does not fit
easily into my hand. My tails twitch
below my skirt, the pan heavy.
I hear the sizzle, the metallic clang,
find myself craving the taste
of iron, of a vicious red that drips.
Kelsey Dean’s poetry has appeared in many publications, such as Tincture, concis, and Moonsick Magazine, and is forthcoming in Liminal, Cicada, and Lilac City Fairy Tales. She is also a Pushcart Prize nominee.
Author’s Notes: “The Kumiho Cooks Pajeon,” is about a creature in Korean folklore similar to the Japanese kitsune—a fox-woman. In Korea, this is usually a sinister, bloodthirsty figure. (Pajeon is a savory pancake made with green onion.) According to Wikipedia, “the Korean kumiho shares many similarities to the Chinese huli jing and the Japanese kitsune. Classic of Mountains and Seas, an old Chinese text, claims a fox with nine tails live in an area called Qingqiu (靑丘). Although the kumiho and other versions of the nine-tailed fox myths and folklores originated from China, they all have a similar concept. All explain fox spirits as being the result of great longevity or the accumulation of energy, said to be foxes who have lived for a thousand years, and give them the power of shape-shifting, usually appearing in the guise of a woman. However, while huli jing and kitsune are often depicted with ambiguous moral compasses, possibly good or bad, the kumiho is almost always treated as a malignant figure who feasts on human flesh.”
The Kumiho is a Korean nine-tailed fox. The image is Gumiho by canitiem at Deviant Art and pajeon.