When Someone Stays Too Long

Lee Sung-Mi

Shut Lips

Her fragrance! Where does it come from?
I guess that a poppy lives inside her body.

As she seldom opens her mouth,
the petals that are being blown out
flutter slowly between her and me.

This, however, can be beautiful.
She shuts her lips for a long time
and so I stay by her side for as long.

The Secret

It happened in secret,
smelling like sugared toys.
A wound-up doll still chimes
long after it should have stopped.
There is a low drumming
behind our backs.

When everyone is asleep
in the night, the forest grows.
At dusk, a scarlet iris blooms.
From somewhere underground,
the smell of mushrooms rises.

As soon as words are spoken,
the opaque window cracks
and the magic show is over.
The door to the attic slides open
to reveal
a dust-sat inner space.

The Moon and the Stone

The stone that is getting cold
was found when I wandered through the dark woods
and put on the window sill.

The stone that is getting cold
has shone in the dark room
and brightened my brow when I gazed upon it.

Under its round light,
I have forgiven my darkness
and silence rolled into a tender ball.

Did a wild cat sleep with its head on the stone?
The stone that is getting cold
has raised the cat's dream into soap bubbles.

Purple rain falls
and the axe of a thunderbolt
cuts down trees in the forest;

meanwhile, my hand
is getting cold on the stone.

I soon come to wonder
about all the rest, the dark side
of a half-moon.

I write down

a fresh dead body of fish,
traces of water drops evaporating on a leaf,
a black body of a freight train
flushing steam,

the grey hair of old men and old women
entangled in the drainage vent,
bright heaps of snow
that lie on the rubbish truck,
the moon in a finger-sized pool
in a crack on the pavement brick.

I am making a list of favorite complexes.
As a worm squirming in
the toilet bowl of a hospital,

it is too late for anyone
aged thirty-five to die

and, in the coming fall,
gold leaves will fall silently as well. Therefore,

translated from the Korean by Gwee Li Sui