Issue 6 Poetry

Six Poems from Because in Unni’s World No One Withers – Kim Hee Joon

Six Poems from Because in Unni’s World No One Withers

By Kim Hee Joon
Translated by Archarna Madhavan and Jae Hyung Woo

Dear Unni

The yuchae flowers looked ready to bloom The April breeze was aquamarine Had you been using your fingers to write letters in the dirt You said you were drawing the bones of a season Your sleeves were filled with long dead lunar cycles and no one knew what you grew between the gaps The reason I pretended not to know about the flower petals in your pocket is because in unni’s world no one withers,

When the back stitch came undone I knew Thread held together your heart The doctor said to stay lying down but spring often stayed on cloudy days anyway Young umma and young unni are in a field tangled with cherry blossoms and yuchae flowers There was a playground hidden in the fog Unni who liked playing hide-and-seek rushing into the comforter and the rooftop and the stone wall as well as the yuchae flowers and the mountain birds and the dark clouds

At some point when the rain falls and we cannot live flowing with the tide let’s go to that place where we’ll never grow old The night you apologized for the stolen cherry tree up your sleeve, I wanted to see the tree’s umbilical cord I knew when I held the bundle of flower corpses I had come across That cherry blossoms bloom in an emptied womb and I thought of you who had disappeared unni Speaking of the night that rain ruptured the lake what do you think was reflected in the water

Unni I heard they sliced the belly of a season in the land that you left for? Who’s your father, you’ll go into that limned sentence and meet me who has the blush of spring I want to know if my bare face was what mixed with the rain and went into your sleeve

How long until I realize that the rippling language of the rain came from you unni?

A Parallel World

Rain passes You have a hobby of listing names I do not know A bug that is unhappy with the scent of books covers the worn out bookmark 

In the bookstore books that are fine but then not fine go up and down Bookshelves are made and in the furniture store wood carry out their lives

Nevertheless, the fact that there is not a single spot for me has driven me into the night

In the fruit stand an old apple rolls around and we see an article about the black hole that year being donut shaped Then we would have each other’s heart and it would disappear

I could eat an apple then spit it out, I could be fine but then not fine

If repeating an attribute was your name we would have had a growing and not growing cypress trail as our walking path We would have gotten caught in the rain that is pouring and not pouring and walked barefoot and would have stepped on an ant, killing and not killing it

I would have forgotten you as I repeat the names you listed and

You would have left holding some other person’s hand

A Pencil

To sketch a scene is a thrill comparable to sneaking a pencil from a stationary store

For example like the pupil of my laid-off dad I ran across in the park Or the vocal cords of my mom telling me the secret that I am in fact a daughter of the laundry man Or the moment I see my brother being slapped in the face by a woman at the street Or that moment when my sister who sees the same ob-gyn with that woman slips a coin into my hand telling me it’s all secret

Sitting around the table we with emptied family eat together starved communication

Then I would sharpen the broken pencil and draw a circle in the diary yet to be written, as round as possible I colored it and tore apart the finished diary And my startled mom screams

–Mom we are a fallen apart family, not even a third rate On some windy day we will roll over like a bean downward and underneath Don’t tell me I’m being too chatty for a bloody young girl The pencil will do the studying by itself Just like the family I just drew 

A scenery sketched under the pencil contorts and I sharpen the pencil Staring at the pencil stub I head to the stationary store

While sneaking a pencil thinking about which moments to do a sketch our eyes met So I’d like to ask you not to believe her words if the store owner calls you

Post Box

Mom do you remember? My red dress, the bright-colored one that you picked for me at the marketplace before the holiday That day I was really annoyed by the melting ice cream between my palm lines So I didn’t ask why I had to stay at grandma’s place even after the holidays I could understand your feelings You wanted to throw away not the ice cream stick but a handful of wind sticking to the palm Poor mom

I’m doing fine Except that the empty stable smells of fodder What’s weird is that the houses next door are tearing down the walls Even if all the family sleep at the plastic greenhouse they are piling up the bricks this high the next day Every time my grandma saw the completed house next door she would pat me blankly Why are they laughing

When the shadow gets longer we dropped by home to rest the body that the afternoon tore apart Even that a wild spider in the corner ate up the sunlight with its sensitive legs I didn’t care I just went out to the entrance of the village in my red dress The sun was burning for the last moment The wavering scenery was all red With a hesitating look some of the village people crammed the letters into me standing absentmindedly

An elderly sending beans in the envelope and a crude sender enclosing few dollars with the letter were being piled up with each of their feeling My inside was being filled up One day when the beans as many as the longing pop up inside me I would press my nose to hold a sneeze What’s important is that the owner of the smoke shop came by often to send emotions without recipient He would weep holding the red dress There were many days that I filled my mouth with his unknown yearnings Then I would throw up the letters and crave for a half melt ice cream of that day

Night comes early in this rural town Darkness would eat me up like a wild spider Grandma would come before that and take my hand There are moments when you understand the feelings you couldn’t realize That is the evidence that somebody has written me a letter that can’t be sent Then mom, how many pages of letter have you written to me that day? I see grandma Her faintish footstep seems precarious Darkness has more things to swallow up before eating me up Goodbye mom 

A Fresh Death

In the convenient store there are processed deaths displayed 

Thus, if your tailbone tickles, you should buy products like a Body Worlds exhibit Whether it’s freedom imprisoned tuna or canned fruit flesh

I imagine eating the instant food and getting near the expiration date I borrow a woman, write a piece, sell an idea to run a tab for tomorrow In the can a brainless tuna is swimming but

freedom does not have bones

Opening the refrigerator I see that each contains different sceneries Streets and deep sea, in other words, a sewer And in the third block of the orchard there lies a used word somebody trashed with its emotions amputated Damn the molt

In the freshly dead convenience store there are neatly aligned products that are churned out with only their labeling changed

I bought a shitty sentence In the receipt the history of a paragraph was typed in at a certain price

Book of Birth Dreams

Mom come and lie on your stomach The world is full of things I can’t cuddle The golden tree would grow up to the ceiling bearing some honey in it The white snake climbing the branch would try to reincarnate and the turtle would lay eggs filling up the white sand beach Gravity makes the pit of my stomach heavy Sleeping on your stomach induces hiccups and pain A goldfish taking shorter breaths is in the glass fishbowl Its colorful tail makes wave patterns and the wave patterns complete a word Its turning gesture makes a comma A carp pops out between the widened curve Is it the fish bowl or the bedroom that cracked? Have you ever approached death at an incredible speed The lab rat which got a young blood transfusion does so and the lips taking in the honey of the golden tree do so and the endless shed skin of the white snake does so What is it that you have cuddled on your fifty unpretentious birthdays? Are you depressed because you never embraced a single revolution until you reached your 50th birthday? In that case open your palm and lie on your stomach Tighten your grip and hug the white sand beach Thousands of younglings would be hatching from the eggs Wouldn’t your first cry when you had a body full of hair be similar to that gesture?


Kim Hee Joon was born in Tongyoung, 1994. She studied BA and MA in Korean literature at Gyeongsang National University. She debuted in 2017 when she won Siindongne Young Poets Award. She passed away in accident on the 24th of July, 2020.

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