A Drink of Red Mirror

A landmark feminist poet and critic in her native South Korea, Kim Hyesoon’s surreal, dagger-sharp poetry has spread from hemisphere to hemisphere in the past ten years, her works translated to Chinese, Swedish, English, French, German, Dutch, and beyond. In A Drink of Red Mirror, Kim Hyesoon raises a glass to the reader in the form of a series of riddles, poems conjuring the you inside the me, the night inside the day, the outside inside the inside, the ocean inside the tear. Kim’s radical, paradoxical intimacies entail sites of pain as well as wonder, opening onto impossible—which is to say, visionary—vistas. Again and again, in these poems as across her career, Kim unlocks a horizon inside the vanishing point. -Action Books

A Bouquet of Red Roses

In the heart of your dream
the place where all the blood in your body ebbs and flows
I’ll open my eyes there

In the bouquet of red roses under your skin
I’ll open my dried-up eyeballs
While the woman inside you thinks of you
I’ll squeeze the throbbing accordion

I’ll make the red fish inside each pleat of your accordion hiccup

So vulnerable it’s dazzling
I’ll rupture the red blood cells of time

In the heart of your dream
the place where all the breath in your body ebbs and flows
I won’t let go of the fringe of the red wave there

Outside me inside you forever
I can never come back from there

Eye of a Typhoon

In front of the mental institution at Ch’ŏngnyangni
A poplar tree shakes its sweat-soaked hair
Like the night wind woven with the feathers of mad birds
At every lighted window I unload
a child and depart

   a child with a crushed chest    a child whose lung at every breathing
hole is filled with stones    a child with ten fingers tattered like a
folding fan    a child whose two lips are stuck together    a child whose
eyeballs have melted     a child whose teeth have been ground away    a
child whose ribs have been smashed away    a child whose every strand
of hair has been plucked    a child whose blood among other things has
been sucked into the drain    a child whose tongue has been stretched
like chewing gum    a child whose brain has been sucked dry by a cat

Mad birds comb-to-comb
encircle the night sky
Little cabin in the woods a little child by the window stood
Saw a rabbit hopping by knocking at the doorThe sound of their singing
Help me help me
A song that cuts my throat like hiccups that won’t stop
In the middle of the mad birds my children yearning to return and
lie down again inside my body A boat carrying those children quietly
afloat with a light on


A tree that can only live
by endlessly dragging up red water
This body that can only live
by sobbing with everything
except for the two eyes that look at you, even then
Oh, it’s cold
Sometimes tears splatter like leaves outside

Tonight at this very hour two red trees pickled in alcohol
are rising up from the underground walkway in front of City Hall
Stop grabbing my hand and bothering me! Spit splatters
The fountain in front of City Hall is so eloquent
it might be manning a suicide hotline for the people of Seoul
Oh it’s cold, around the fountain where tears sometimes splash
cars orbit without resting 24 hours a day
Sitting in the Sky Lounge in the Plaza Hotel
I’ve passed that mountain that cloud that rainstorm
I passed everything
Good flight conditions, okay, okay went my blackbox
recorded tonight and, for a refrain,
it read out one of these days will come the right moment to die
A tree that will collapse, if it doesn’t swallow water
sucked from underground
24 hours a day, 1440 minutes, 86400 seconds
My spell that sucks up red blood with my whole body
and raises white water bones
so as not to flood like water on that floor
so as not to flow away like river water
This poor thing with a bulb on its head
that pushes up red blood every day!
A spell by an upside-down tree

Mixer & Juicer

The windowpane steams up
I write on that windowpane
I w a n n a sl e e p i n
I think that’s enough I put on makeup I go to school
My room chases me all the way to school and
opens and closes my eyelids
I sleep awhile then look at the clock Seven fifty-nine
The student has been reading for many hours Yi Sang’s “Precipice”
Strange I listen closely The student is reading only flower
But still I think the student is reading Precipice
I sleep more and wake I look at the clock Seven fifty-nine
I say really that’s enough I get up
I look inside the mixer and juicer pulverizing flowers of three colors
T h e f l o w e r s a r e f r a g r a n t t h e f l o w e r s b l o s s o m I d i
g a gr a v e t h e r e
T h e f l o w e r s a r e f r a g r a n t t h e f l o w e r s b l o s s o m I d i
g a gr a v e t h e r e
Yi Sang’s poetry is a spell for the new-model mixer and juicer
I look inside the lake where the sun is being ground up
After pulverizing everything
I look inside the lake that squeezes its juice
For millions of years I w a n n a w a k e u p
I w a n n a w a k e u p toss and turn That lake
getting smaller by itself
Who will wake up my sleep at the bottom of the lake
that nobody has ever awoken
Like the new-model mixer and juicer with handles I too
have two ears attached like handles
Will you raise me up and pour me into that glass?
At the shout of Get up quick you’ll be late
I look at the clock again Seven fifty-nine