Smells Can’t Keep up with Trends
In the food truck next to the rose shop
an ajumma stabs a pork bit with a toothpick.
Eat it before it gets cold. Take it.
The ajumma who wanted to give me that itty taste
wore an apron steeped in yellow.
Steeped yellow is a dirty yellow
but yellow corn is clean when it’s steamed
so it’s softening in a bubbling pot.
I only eat liver.
I dust off the salt
and chew on someone else’s liver.
The ajumma picks her teeth with an empty vitamin C packet.
She doesn’t even hide it.
Does she have a bad tooth? Is something stuck?
When she digs between her teeth
it sounds like gulls squawking.
She takes a paper cup, rinses her mouth
and begins to pick her teeth again with the empty vitamin C packet.
It’s like she’s digging at something with a push pin.
Can you even imagine? No way.
If only you hadn’t put that toothpick you’d been picking your teeth with
up to my nose.
Eat me before I gets cold. Take it, me.
Banging you is no big deal.
Do It Today (Summer Solstice on the Lunar Calendar)
Around two in the afternoon
two cabs stop side by side at a crosswalk.
Two flower print parasols cross slowly.
To endure this oldness and slowness
these two ajeossis exist.
I guess men save deficiencies
to bust out at the right moment.
These ajeossis lower their driver’s side windows at the same time
so they exist.
I guess men play dumb with restraint
so they can shoot the piss at the right moment.
— Where you headed?
— Don’t beat your missus in broad daylight.
— The old lady’s gone off to some sea salt bathhouse.
— Then go the fuck to sleep, don’t jack your dick off.
— Son of a bitch, I don’t even have the energy to swipe credit cards.
Are they separating now?
As soon as the light changes and the Paju Call cab is on its way.
There’s the Legendary Han River Call cab
and the Easy Peasy Ilsan cabs
but I like the Jumong cabs from Naju best.
Naju’s main company, Jumong Call
gives you the impression
each time is special.
Is the word Jumong from earth?
The experts say so.
Because King Jumong must’ve had wet dreams like everybody else
I lend my ear to the sound of a cabbie scratching his balls
but only for a moment and no more than necessary.
The Gothic font on his business card reads
We believe in the sanctity of one-time encounters.
Kim Min Jeong is the author of 4 poetry collections and a book of essays. Her third book of poems, Beautiful and Useless (Black Ocean) is going to be published in English translation in 2020. She is the poetry editor for Korea’s largest publishing house, Munhak Dongne.
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 award-winning 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.
Jake Levine is an American translator, poet, and scholar. He received both his BA and MFA from the University of Arizona and is currently Abd in a PhD program in Comparative Literature at Seoul National University. He works as an assistant professor of creative writing at Keimyung University and as a lecturer at the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. He is the assistant editor at Acta Koreana and the editor for the Korean poetry series Moon Country at Black Ocean. Previously he served as the editor-in-chief of Sonora Review and as the poetry editor of Spork Press. Spring 2019 saw the release of his co-translation of Kim Yideum’s award-winning Hysteria (Action Books) and a special collection of translations of Contemporary Korean Women Authors that he edited for Puerto Del Sol. He also co-translated the Poems of Kim Minjeong, Kim Haengsook, and Kim Yideum with Don Mee Choi, Johannes Goransson and Jiyoon Lee.