Two Poems

  • onNovember 11, 2014
  • Vol.22 Winter 2013
  • byKim Hyesoon
Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream



Dear Choly, From Melan

In November I was sleepless
In November the stars on the ceiling all lit up
In November my heart was so bright that I couldn’t close my eyes
I was in a precarious state as the cold well rose above my head
Melan and Choly lay in a blue bucket, making fists
They clammed up like a cavity-ridden piano

Melan covered herself with a cloud, Choly with a shadow
Melan endured the wind, Choly clung to the sea
Melan said It's flesh-scented, Choly said It’s water-scented
Melan disliked sunlight, Choly’s feet were cold
Melan didn’t eat, Choly didn’t drink
I was absent when Melan ate, also when Choly drank water
Melan is a Frag, Choly is a Ment
Melan is a Dis, Choly is a Perse
My skin cracked like a jigsaw puzzle
Melan said Long ago, Choly wept ages ago
Melan ate soap, Choly became laundry
I swirled the wet laundry around my neck like one of Saturn’s rings
Melan has a tongue of ice, Choly has eyes of ice
My shoulders hurt from carrying ice

A woman appeared with a yoke loaded with
Melan on her left shoulder, Choly on her right
Heaven hell, heaven hell, continually binary
like a Tibetan grandma’s spinning prayer wheels
The woman poured beneath my skin a bucketful of Melan then Choly
and left

Kim Su-young is Kim Su-000
Kim Chun-su is Kim Chun-###
Kim Jong-sam is Kim Jong-333*
Step left then step right
After 0 is 1, after 2 is 3
After Melan is Choly
A night when all the mathematics of the world appear
The poets I admire are still clinging to death’s umbilical cord

Dear Melan, from Choly
Dear November, from December

Melan combed rain streaks, Choly plowed them
Melan put a white running shoe on her left foot
Choly put a white running shoe on her right foot
I covered up a pair of white birds, with strings cut, on my feet

I couldn’t come and go as such



Saturn’s Sleeping Pill

A place where my shadows visit when I close my eyes
There, I put on a belt made of smoke
When my soul buzzes like the mosquitoes at night
my shadows swarm like a pride of lions on the plains
A place where my ashes get up and dance after I’ve been burnt today

Saturn has 60 moons
therefore, I have 60 shadows
I have 120 eyes, of course
I don’t get to open all of my eyes
whether the sun rises or not

Therefore, how many bodies do I have?
How many more bodies can die?
The ground is soft-soft and my footsteps are limp-limp
The air is sticky-sticky and my heart heaves-heaves
A place where your ghost snatches my soul away like a spider web

I pray for my own soul
I sit on my dead bodies
and put to sleep a few remaining live bodies
Longings are asleep doubts are asleep
even the throats that have not yet opened are asleep all asleep

What do you want to be when you die?
I’m going to be something that has no borders


* Translated by Don Mee Choi.
** Translator's note: Kim Su-young, Kim Chun-su, and Kim Jong-sam are the names of prominent contemporary male Korean poets who are all deceased. The last syllables of their names “young,” “su,” and “sam” are treated as homonyms for numbers.

Author's Profile

Kim Hyesoon(b. 1955) is one of the most prominent and influential contemporary poets of South Korea. She was the first woman poet to receive the prestigious Kim Su-yong and Midang Awards, and her works have been translated into English, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish. Her translated English works include: When the Plug Gets Unplugged (Tinfish, 2005), Anxiety of Words (Zephyr, 2006), Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers (Action Books, 2008), All the Garbage of the World, Unite! (Action Books, 2011), Princess Abandoned (Tinfish, 2012), Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream (Action Books, 2014), I’m OK, I’m Pig! (Bloodaxe Books, 2014), Trilingual Rensi (Vagabond Press, 2015), Poor Love Machine (Action Books, 2016), Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2018), and A Drink of Red Mirror (Action Books, 2019). Kim lives in Seoul and teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. Kim, along with her long-time translator, Don Mee Choi, recently received the International Griffin Poetry Prize, Canada’s most prestigious poetry award, for Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2019).