I am proud to be a pansy – a term reserved
by my father for my occasional failures
in grunting, sweating, and general manliness.
He forgets himself – does not remember
that some of our noblest ancestors were like me:
the original pansies. Fair, flowery, flamboyant.
But never feeble. They knew that femininity
is far from frail. No brutes were they –
they skipped the booze and sipped their tea,
read books, could dance, recited poetry.
They kept smooth jars of celadon-blue
full of beautifying agents, powders and perfumes.
They dusted their faces with finely-ground rice;
defined their brows with strokes of indigo;
patted a healthy glow into their cheeks
with saffron and cinnabar, a red as vibrant
as the blood of their enemies, dark droplets,
gems dripping from swords held aloft,
clutched in pale hands, nails neatly
trimmed and filed.
They were the hwarang, the flower boys
of the proud and ancient Silla dynasty,
where being lovely and deadly were not
mutually exclusive. They were meticulous –
as careful with a brush on a face
as with a blade on a body. Deft strokes,
carefully placed, one-two, one-two.