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from the September 2019 issue

Roommate, Woman

"Roommate, Woman" is one of four winning poems selected by Mónica de la Torre for the Words Without Borders—Academy of Americans Poets Poem-in-Translation Contest.

Listen to Lee Young-ju read her poem "Roommate, Woman." in the original Korean.

Listen to Jae Kim read the English translation of Lee Young-ju's "Roommate, Woman."

On waking, I see my body has been rearranged. I’m reminded of the tongue you, having cried so much, dropped under the cypress tree. From then on, you began to speak with your left hand. One of my eyes, stuck to my thigh, closed and opened toward the obsolete picture. When your ovary, full of blood, keeps moving down, you open the window. A whistle sounds. The police touches the face of the rat the cat never finished. There behind your back is my pain, isolated from my knees. You knew the house would be rearranged when we woke up—I hold your hand. While we watch the pale clouds, sitting on leaking fuel tanks, our joined hands slip out the door. You pick up one of my eyes worming under your foot. It may snow. Snow (not an eye) like the bandage around my hand, smeared in crimson light.

"Roommate, Woman"  © Lee Young-ju. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Jae Kim. All rights reserved.

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