Issue 1 Poetry

“Unexpected Vanilla” and Four Poems – Lee Hye-mi

“Unexpected Vanilla” and Four Poems

By Lee Hye-mi
Translated by Dahyun Kim


Sugar Point

Honey, I feel like my irises are freezing.

I tried my best to become sweet
but the sweetness only lead to defilement
and screaming disappointment

gradually turning dark, bit by every dark bit
I lose my sense of self

it is as if I have received a bouquet
not of flowers, but of knives

with this face that I acquired through countless stains
I open my mouth,
and defile the kitchen entirely with sticky liquid and

I gradually ignore the light in my eyes

I feel like my two feet are on fire, honey

I need to drink someone else’s thoughts
I need to shout out a stranger’s name whilst I sleep  

when dusk approaches
I see

Residue, dry grass, and smoke
so long
so sweet
gradually rising above my body




You swam from the deepest depths
to hand over your name

like tropical fruits that became tarnished with each caress
like that one promise you swore you wouldn’t break, but –

brow, brushwood, wood, thicket
The night when you came from yonder and presented me with my mother tongue

looking at the tree roots that had been upended by a typhoon,
we talked
about greed and nighttime;
the dirty world of water that
seeps into the cracks between dark roots

you didn’t know winter,
the names of places on the tip of a fading tongue,
or the snow-topped shoulders that are similar to
the stray strands of fluff on a sweater

remember the soft blue fingerprints
we left, secretly, on the beach

when I open that small storm window and
take out the name you gave to me as a present,
while spilling blood that is unusually clear

sand shaped like stars
falls in and around the crown of our heads

Hiram, today is a day when a planet grows slightly heavier
for the seasons you have yet to know.



The Cupboard with the Strawberry Jam

On the tip of my toes, I felt my way to the highest shelf and tasted what was, oh, so red. My mouth stained red, as if I had turned into a pair of areolas.

Sister, we are, without doubt, one person who has been slyly disjointed. That morning we wore the strawberry’s messy green crown and talked about our very first wet dreams. Placing resilient seeds one by one inside our pores, we intentionally became secretive and tender. In our kingdom of two, wavering inside translucent jelly.

If I had more seasons than I were allowed, I would whisper vulgar words rapidly, as if I were a bird whose beak was disappearing, and sing a song to you; a song so decadent it would be on the verge of decay. I’d stamp on that rainbow made of pink and, with a peculiar guilt-ridden happiness, call for the morning owl. 

When sticky and sweet things flow between my fingers, with a heart that knows that it has far too much to hide; if I had one more pair of lips, one more fine membrane, we could talk about the tastes that become more prominent with each collusion.

Today we merely spread out our arms as wide as we can and experience that old red. When we still loved that what was hidden and sweet.



Unexpected Vanilla

It slipped softly down the outer ear. That which flows along each uneven surface, a kind of vanilla that lingers on the tip of your tongue.

Keeping the most universal expression while gathering an inexorable amount of seeds. With a fast-beating heart, I memorized the names of foreign countries. That was the first sense of sweetness. That particular preference for all things that vanish.

There was a pair of limbs that melted. That slight touch which runs hot and cold, that which shapes each other. That flower which lies flat in the realm of sound. That which was born, steadily, from fingertips. That word, that word that melts with each touch: bosom.

That kind of vanilla. Owning eyeballs with just the right consistency. I love the people who are yet to know me the most. There was a set of eyelids that became complete the moment they became lost. That which slips while waving shimmering tentacles, and then totally collapses.



Taste of Wings

This is a tale about two equal tips of tongues
About the white blossoms placed lightly on top of a pair of lips

Yesterday was rain; today, snow. Ash-tinted snowflakes whirl within fading sleep. You move forward without knowing your darkness. Into the arms of someone who is not me. They say that ice melting is the same as gradually spreading wings that have been kept folded for far too long. Shoulders that seem to have been waiting to unfold. Shoulders that bloom. These two hands of mine feel as if they might disappear. Because of that person who says that they can own you. Because of those colors that stain the corner of my eyes, only to disappear.  

I let my gaze linger until the last of the ice crystals fade away. It feels like all my eyelashes will disperse into thin air. I had wanted to soar into the distance to tear myself away from those shadows, but—. I wait for the snowflakes without knowing what they are. That taste of wings that disappear on the tip of my tongue. All frozen things that start to melt are lonely. In this world where rain becomes snow and then rain once again chastises those that are white.

I hear the collision of white bells amidst the high-flying fluids. Where did you discard that snowflake etched with my secret. Yesterday it rained, today it is snowing. Which world is more melancholy: a world that has started to freeze or a world that is melting.

Originally published in Unexpected Vanilla. October 2016
〈슈가 포인트〉, 〈하이람〉, 〈딸기잼이 있던 찬장〉, 〈뜻밖의 바닐라〉, 〈날개의 맛〉
–《뜻밖의 바닐라》 中





Lee Hye-mi was born in 1988 in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province. Her first poem appeared in JoongAng Daily New Writers Awards in 2006. In 2009, she won Creative Writing Fund from Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture. She has published two collections of poetry Outside of Purple and Unexpected Vanilla. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Korean Language and Literature at Korea University.


Featured image is licensed under CC BY 0

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