Nonfiction by Sangmi Yoo

December 15, 2023

Expression of Escape

A palm-sized marshmallow of fluff, now matted with bloody bile, laid beak first in the corner of a shit-filled cage, seized in the position where she wheezed her last breath. Her claws remained gripped to the cage’s grate, desperate to remain in this life or to hold someone in transition to the next. My father gently pulled her up with a soft, white hand towel and rested her body within, covering her unrecognizably stoic expression that embodied what becomes of all in nature. He loved her most. Taught her to fly to his hand from the cage, rewarding her with millet spray and kisses she pretended to fear but knew were the closest companionship she’d get. Her fellow feathered friend passed five years ago. Since then she’d been in species solitary, no one within even the same taxonomic class to be seen for the rest of her life. I sometimes wonder what kind of loneliness that must feel like.

I find out later that my father moved her body to the freezer. “It’s disgusting” complained my mother. I could not argue with the pronoun choice—she was not in the freezer. To rest her body, because we could not assure it of her soul, my father buried her in the backyard, going through the same motions as five years ago, only a few inches to the left. He wanted them to rest side by side.

I did not go with him. My sister joined instead, for support or closure I’m not sure which, and came back to describe how he’d gently dug as deep as he could, silently laid her once breathing body, said a heartfelt prayer to his god, and stomped on the grave. He claimed he didn’t want any animals digging her up.

An expression of love as crude as it is contradictory, all too familiar to those he raised.

Four days later he returned. What remains is a divot. 

About Sangmi Yoo

Sangmi Yoo is a Korean-American graduate student pursuing a PhD. She has several publications in academic journals related to climate change, health equity, and health professions. This is her first creative writing publication.