White Fountain

Jack Jung

**content warning: death**


With a stone in his coat pocket, the doctor,

Following a manual on treating those whose words

Float slowly past their teeth like icebergs at night,


Stuffed the patient’s cheeks with stones to keep

His mouth open and opened his white scissors.

Water flowed from the patient’s moan, spilling


Down to a pool where the bodies were disposed

Bound to the stones they’d been stoned with.

One of the bodies had another kind of manual,


Filled with long recipes of potions granting love.

After drowning this body, the killers swallowed

The body’s concoction because it was sweet,


Then dived after the drowned till they learned its depth.

The doctor played with the patient’s tongue

The way the body’s hand had kept slipping away.


The patient eventually slipped out of his sleep

And was given a board and a pen but no mirror

And realized he could only hum to himself


And his humming had no words that could be

Written down for memory on a white slab, which

Was a stone from a quarry, where earth was being cut


To meet the demand for surfaces to write on

Since the trees were lost. The quarry’s dust rose

And floated down like snow. The pen’s nib got


Clogged with ice. As it snowed on, the patient

Gathered his falling white hair and made a brush,

And dipped its tip into the pool, and on a piece


Of a coat cut out with the scissors he had stabbed

The doctor with, drew the body’s words. Now, bring

The cloth near a fire, and stay. Their shapes will


Rise like map’s lines traced with lemon juice ink.

Where the X marks the spot is a frozen lake.

It will look like the stone you are holding.

About the Author

Jack Jung is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Truman Capote Fellow. His translations of Korean poet Yi Sang’s poetry and prose are published in Yi Sang: Selected Works by Wave Books. He currently teaches at Davidson College.