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  • Five Poems
  • Kim Kyung-Ju (bio)
    Translated by Chae-Pyong Song (bio) and Anne Rashid (bio)

The Blooming Public Phone

After work the female factory workers open the cold locks of their bikes they had parked together. When large snowflakes like white rice fall outside of the window, the female workers on the night shift at the wig factory jump over the wall and rush to the public phone on their breaks. They press down the snowflakes one by one with their   pocketbooks. The more uneven their teeth are, the more brightly they wave. In spite of the wind blowing in through the gaps in makeshift walls and the dusty light bulb, the snow heaps up. When they press their frozen ears to the receiver shaking off the encrustation of old numbers, the clear signals are transmitted— of the first love that had been cut off like a fingernail and even of Mother’s hearing aid wrapped within a handkerchief in   a drawer— they all plunge into their hearts. Each of these signals is stitched into their hearts. When Chang the foreman puts chains across each alley and leaves, [End Page 113] the female workers take off their white cotton gloves; their cold fingertips are puffy. Every place where injuries occur, seams become crooked, sleepy eyes become hazy over heaps of hair that await weaving. All night underneath sewing machines the women call out paper, rock, and scissors to decide phone privileges; their calls bloom and wither, but the radio static continues on. [End Page 114]

Mother Still Wears Flowery Underwear

Only as I hang out the laundry after returning to my hometown do I realize that Mother still wears red flowery underwear. One snowy day, she kept me near her as she diligently chose underwear for her family from a cart at the market. As the speaker boomed into the expansive sky, ample like her bottom, Mother picked up a pair of light panties and rubbed the warm cotton on her cheek till the fabric became a damp red. The flower pattern that she rubbed with her fingertips made Mother still feel alive as a woman. Today, cheeks flush with the memory of that red flower pattern. As Mother proved whenever she started over again with her newly washed underwear, those flowers won’t wither easily, just as the underwear in the market was still new no matter how many handled it. Onto her hanging underwear, one by one a few flying snowflakes descend and gently take on the red color. From the wrinkled flowers, a clear flower water drops, drip drip— a pair of Mother’s old panties that might have felt shy within the drawer next to a snowball-sized moth ball. Into the mossy smell of skin, the sunlight softly settles. [End Page 115]

A Strange Tale

I burned the map so where do all the buried volcanoes flow?

There is a dream of conception one only dreams once more after birth. Will the narratives that replace sleep become my tomb?

I see a doll that sits in a room vomiting a strange cord.

To a human being who has flown out into the earth and slowly floats to his own dream of conception, there is a blood only he can bleed again when he crawls back into the womb. [End Page 116]

The Hole

I clean up the hole The hole hatches an egg Desiring a hole, I have written a few books The hole has no work today Exhausted, the hole’s sympathy is at risk Clearing away the hole, I ran down the stairs The hole is the life of the inner room Looking down at the hole is the time that pushes an object The hole where a toilet should receive all from top to bottom There are holes that ask the color The hole’s surroundings are suspiciously drying up The flowers that bloom away from the hole are heartbreaking The hole with today’s efforts recognizes more distance than depth The hole floats within the hole Nowhere hurts in the hole It appears only the hole hurts Waves walk toward heaven bleeding profusely, shouting, “Hole,   please save me!” The hole...


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pp. 113-119
Launched on MUSE
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