Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

Like Taking Off Boots

by Maija Rhee Devine

Yes, we used comfort women, he says
in a 2011 youtube clip about WWII.
“As automatically as yanking boots off,”
Every lull from bombing, driving machetes
Into skulls of big-nosed white bastards
We sprinted to the girls, some babes
Thirteen years old, younger than my younger sister.
To save time, we stripped to hoondoshi
underwear, cursed the wait line,
“Get the hell outa there!  Your five minutes up, fucker!”
“Automatic,” I say, like pulling boots off.

A thousand bees sting inside
Down there in a thirteen-year-old girl
Chopped firewood, pine maybe oak
Ramming, ramming into her
The first time she thought the man’s elbow
Was tearing into her.
What else would have knocked her out?

You pathetic whore bitch, do you have to stuff
Your mouth with a rice ball even while
An elbow pistons up and down inside you?
She trashes herself.

One part blood, one part disinfectant
Two parts water, she swishes her bottom in that
In between serving the “animals,”
Twenty a day, double on weekend days.
Little bees’ mouths chew, chew their way up to her navel.

By the clean dinner plate face of the moon
Out the rip in the tent pitched in the open
To serve troops in front line
There, mommy’s face.  Mommy!

It looks and feels like snot,
What squeezes out the shatgoos
Must I wash these condoms?
Yes, you do, if you want to survive
see your Mommy one day.

Mommy! Roast me a sweet potato
Over charcoal fire, not too burned
But coated with sweet
browned sugar skin

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine, a Korean-born writer whose fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, North American Review, and The Kenyon Review, and in various anthologies, holds a B.A. in English from Sogang University in Seoul, and an M.A. in English from St. Louis University.  Writing honors include an NEA grant and nominations to Pushcart Prize and O. Henry Awards.

Long Walk on Short Days, by Maija Rhee DevineLong Walks on Short Days, her poetry chapbook about Korea, China, U.S. and other lands she has known, is available through Finishing Line Press here.

Learn more about Maija Rhee Devine here.


Writing for Peace News:

The Voice of Heaven, by Maija Rhee Devine Adviser Maija Rhee Devine’s Debut Novel Released!

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jung Un unilaterally revoked the 1953 Armistice Agreement, threatening to turn South Korea and parts of the U.S. into a sea of flames. Writing for Peace Adviser, Maija Rhee Devine, remembers fleeing Seoul on foot and by train as a child during the Korean War.  The train, she said, was a boxcar, with no seats or bathroom facilities, and crammed with so many people that they hung from the handrail outside in the winter air “until they froze and dropped to death.”

Maija Rhee Devine’s debut novel, The Voices of Heaven, leads readers through an extraordinary love story that parallels the tragedies of the war. The story flows from her firsthand experience of growing up in Seoul during the Korean War, revealing uniquely Korean colors and sounds. You can purchase a copy of “The Voices of Heaven” on here, or directly from the  Seoul Selection site here.


In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

This is Where I’ll Die, Translated by Maija Rhee Devine

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, "Occupied" 2013

DoveTales is now available for purchase!

We are excited to announce that the print copies of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, are now available to purchase here.


Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

1 thought on “Like Taking Off Boots, by Maija Rhee Devine

  1. Brian Devine

    I have been to the House of Sharing in Gwangju and have heard the stories of the comfort women. The powerful imagery and harsh language in this poem really create a sense of pain and sorrow that comfort women suffered. This is in stark contrast with the indifferent attitude of the soldiers, which reflects the reality of the situation.


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