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from the June 2019 issue

The Cupboard with Strawberry Jam

A sensuous prose poem from South Korean poet Lee Hyemi​.
 

We stood on our tiptoes and fumbled around the top shelf for a taste of those red, red things. With mouths dyed red, we felt like a pair of nipples.  

Sister, we must be a cleverly split person. The morning we wore the disheveled green crowns of strawberries and spoke of our first wet dreams under the covers. We laid a chewy seed in every pore, growing recklessly private and gradually tender. In the kingdom for two who sway inside translucent jelly. 

If I had a spare season, I would’ve rushed to whisper vulgar words like a bird with a disappearing beak and gifted you, Sister, the sweetest song on the verge of rot. I would’ve squished the all-pink rainbow and called over the morning owl with the strange joy of guilt. 

Feeling like there was more to hide now as the sweet stickiness dripped down between my fingers. If I had another pair of lips, another pair of thin mucous membranes, we would’ve been able to talk about the flavors that deepen as they’re mixed together.

But today, simply with our arms spread wide, we experienced our ruddiness of old. Of the days when we loved what was still hidden and sweet.
 

From Unexpected Vanilla (Moonji Publications, 2016). © Lee Hyemi. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2019 by So J. Lee. All rights reserved.

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