I Scribble Away at a Letter
by Kim Hyesoon
translated by Don Mee Choi
As I raise my head, an old woman, lying on the pavement, is scraping off wads of gum.
The glass window of a café divides us.
I was walking along an unfamiliar street
then I suddenly went into the café to write a letter.
A rat goes in and out of her body, raises a litter.
The old woman is full of holes.
Some days the rat peeks out from her lips.
Startled, I jump up from the sofa.
Mommy-rat has a baby-rat in its muzzle, climbing between the spring of the sofa.
I tear off the rats and write a letter.
The rats are a salty delusion, a net that stretches forever—the rats are playing me.
Chase them away! I take a sip of beer. The night arrives, but the old woman is still scraping off gum.
I hear the rats are hiding beneath the ancient Buddhist temple.
They wait for the day they’ll be reincarnated as humans—your death must have instructed them, for even death wants to live.
Since you called them out, you should chase them away. I keep writing my letter.
The people getting off from work are swept away in waves, the people who will lose their sight when the light that is supposed to come comes.
Perhaps roaming is endless. Only the lit windows are luminous like eyes that look into themselves. Beneath the pavement, the rats’ eyes gleam, looking into the night as if our night is their home, and Jacqueline Du Pre fills the café, trying to hold back her tears inside me. The rats must leave her stomach.
As I raise my head, the old woman moves away. She steps on the pavement, spitting, sneezing, and walks off, mumbling as if things are streaming out from her holes.
Chase them away! Throw out even the baby-rats!
Somewhere inside me, a vacuous bag bursts and a book flutters by—I wonder what language it is in.
Maybe the silent café of the goldfish has exploded.
A stream of rats engulfs me.
I begin to hiccup as if my lips are holding onto my heart.
Also by Kim Hyesoon (translated by Don Mee Choi) in ActionYes #3:
A Sublime Kitchen