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Makkoli by Brendan Walsh

Buckets of white rice, extracted, sifted,
boiled to birth starch frothing to the top
of fermentation tanks.  Blind starving yeast
chew sugar to booze in the tepid casks.

Months later, I am frog-eyed, stumbling drunk;
bronze bowls of milky-white makkoli rimmed,
spilling on the oak tabletop occupied
by tall, high-nosed foreigners, end-to-end.

Two red-faced ajashis smoke skinny cigarettes
at the next table, six kettles
of makkoli sloshing inside their guts.
The brave one stands, points a pudgy finger

my way, yells, spits at me and stumbles out,
as drunk as I off the milk of his country.

Brendan Walsh is a Fulbright Scholar and poet from Connecticut, but has lived in upstate New York and South Korea, and he will soon move to Laos. Follow his life in Laos at

Makoli is an alcoholic beverage native to Korea. It is made from a mixture of wheat or rice.