“Man, all these tigers in cages and shit”: Three Poems by Soeun Seo

O

O

Brother Pinky

Korean lesbian stoners in 70’s Seoul
were often picked on by gangs,
the jopok, who hated the cross
dressing Mr. Pants, which is
kind of like butches.

Legend has it, Brother Pinky,
a Mr. Pants, was surrounded
by gangsters with knives
and they chopped BP’s pinky but
not all the way through so it
kind of dangled and BP just
yanked it off like an icicle
and from then on, BP was
respected among the gangsters.

Man, BP’s so cool.
It’s like turning the other cheek
but slapping it yourself.
I imagine them in a jopok noir film.
The teaser voice-over:
70’s Gangbangers.
Mr. Pants Legends.
The Stonewall of Korea!
Full of Blood. Love. aaaand Butch.
Coming to You This Fall.

And this scene would be intense:
BP is heavily beaten up,
blood streaming down the face,
but smiles wide, all creepy,
and builds laughter into a scream until
Pop! Goes the pinky.

An indulgent comeback:
You can’t hurt me.
Who taught BP to be so loud?

Today my therapist
told me to imagine
my mom
in my room
with us
on our zoom call
and she’s been listening
the entire time.

I was very afraid.

Her over-dyed,
sad black hair drooped
across her balloony face
and all I could do,
even in my head,
was politely ask her to leave.
I said,
“Please leave,
you should not be here.”
I couldn’t even cuss.

I really regret not being a brat.
I should’ve been super mean
as a teen. If I had popped
a neck vein on a tantrum
and everyone just kind of
dealt with it, if I could be a pain
in the ass but tolerated
like eating tasty spicy food
I would have a very healthy way
of announcing my pronouns
when nobody asks.
And then I could be cool like BP,
flickering with anger, threatening
to rip off my own pinky at any moment
and demand respect, which
I really like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cuties 🍊

It’s a hard life, being tiny and cute.
So many cuties on my counter
get pillaged whenever a guest is over.
None’s been offered. But I’m easy.
Small and innocent, they’re easy to take.

A cutie sweetens when it’s knocked around a bit
and its flavedo softens when it’s ripe.
Flavedo means fruit hole.
Yeah, I know. It’s a bad analogy.
I don’t mean to pretend

I am cooler than I am.
But it’s true, every year
someone dies and I get sweeter.
This year my grandpa died and my mom
did not die and for Christmas/birthday

I got a pair of kitty paw socks
and a carrot sweater and I
actually wear them. I am adored
everywhere I go. I’d rather not.
That’s such a lie.

I’m like the r/relationship girl who’s always like,
I gave my mom/boyfriend my whole life
and now he shits on my pillow every night.
Every morning it’s Holy moly! Hot dogs!
Edit: I really love him.

Apparently I am also the most
talented four-year-old.
When I drive my car to Walmart
All the ladies are like
Look at that four-year-old driving a car!
when I’m really 25.

I’m sweeter and it sucks like bubblegum.
Last year I didn’t talk to Mom at all
and this year I call her every day
just to say I don’t forgive her.
But she is even stiffer now and white at the top,
debt at the bottom, dog food,
a knocked over bottle of pepper.

I’m fine with this. It’s what I wanted.
Tonight a boy is waiting for me in my bed
and I will try not to think about whether
my mom has ever cum in her life.
I will try to focus on how much of the boy I can bite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travis Maldonado [1]Wakes to Another Morning in a World On Fire, Takes a Shit in His On-Fire Toilet, Dries His Balls to the Warm Breeze of His On-Fire ATV,  Finds a Patch of Shade On Fire under Which to Smoke His On-Fire Weed, Brushing His Greasy Hair out of His Eyes, Which Is Extra On-Fire Because of the Grease

 

……………………………………………………..Unfortunately, Travis, you’re right.

…………………………………………………………………………………………..Mmhmm. There’s no way out.

You’re always sweaty as
…………………………………..fuck these days, heating up
…………………………………..heavy like concrete, you don’t think
…………….the stache is working,
…………….your cheeks are flushed red
a little like a milkmaid…………………and a little like a drunk rat.

…………….Man, all these tigers in cages and shit

their eyes are like
………………………your eyes.

…………….Confused and afraid,
……………………..tranquilized, staring down
………………………………….a vague target, ready to fuck shit up
…………….given the chance, and oh, boy,

………………………………….you could reaally lose it.

You were “19 years old,
…………….tall, tan, and beautiful!” Once

………………………………….you were powerful and godly

…………….in the kingdom of Joe Exotic.

…………….Yeah, you should ask him for a dab rig.

…………………………………..Today you could fall out of the goddamn sky
……………………….and make your mouth goflappity flap
…………………………………………….against the air blowing you up
……………………………………like a bounce house. Tomorrow

you could throw off the ring,

…………………………………………….“You know what?
………………………………………………A bad dream.”

……………………….Your leg hairs wink like toads.

……………..The sky is blue, the grass is dry.
……………………….If you could, would you die?

……………………….There, The Joe Exotic himself,
……………………….with his toothpick legs you could snap in a wink.

……………………“Man, you know a ruger won’t fire without a clip.”

 

 

 

 

 

[1]  Travis Maldonado was Joe Exotic’s zoo-employee-turned-lover. Groomed with big cats, drugs, guns, and other luxurious toys, he was trapped in a life heavily controlled by Joe Exotic. He shot himself to death with a gun he claimed would not fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soeun Seo is a poet and translator from South Korea and a current fellow at the Michener Center for Writers. They co-translated Kim Yideum’s Hysteria (Action Books, 2019) and is currently co-translating Kim Min Jeong’s Beautiful and Useless which will be coming out in October 2020 with Black Ocean.

October 23rd, 2020|
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