"For the Second Time in Thirty-Three Years " by Choi Seung-ja

For the second time in thirty-three years



For the second time in thirty-three years

I resolve to escape from myself.

First I detach my head

place it on a shelf.

Take off my arms and feet

put them on my desk and

detach my torso, seat it on a chair.

Using only my creaky knees, I steal away furtively

and start a desperate run.

I run on and on and run some more

when I can run no longer

when I want to be still, to rest

someone walks ahead of me.

I run to them seeking pity.

Let me rest in your arms awhile,

and, if only I could,

softly, as air escapes a balloon

softly, let me die in those arms.

They walk off pretending not to hear.

I beg them again for pity and

at last, reluctant, as though it’s bothersome

when they turn to look back at me


There it is......

my own crumpled face.




Translated by Sophie Bowman



Choi Seung-ja has published eight poetry collections. The English edition of Portrait of a Suburbanite: Poems of Choi Seung-ja was published in 2015 as part of the Cornell University East Asia Series. She has translated the works of Paul Auster, David Fontana, Max Picard, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Richard Brautigan, May Sarton, and Friedrich Nietzsche.