Translate This Body into Everything
with thanks to Harryette Mullen
Here I am at the inconveniencestore of unspoken words. Rows of softsilence. The produceof our Korean families. Five thousand years+of the People in White. We are the girlswho went away, who left memory behind,who ate pebbles and stopped talking.We each need a librarian, an army of+alphabets to keep us warm at night,when our voices stiffen to copper and tin.When our grandmothers dissolve into mistand our grandfathers mold wives out of dirt.+Here we are at the corner of the past and fateno one discovered except American dayby American night. Work. Switching faces was easierthan trading one tongue for another.+How do we pronounce our skin in English,turn our silences inside out like a fox-fur stole.The Korean fox with nine tails is a demon,always a woman, her heart thick with dreams+of human sacrifice, of the future of nature.Korean girls who slept with the dictionaryso they would never be alone, so one daythey could give birth to bruises and poetry.
“Translate This Body into Everything” from THE WET HEX: by Sun Yung Shin.
Published by Coffee House Press
Copyright © 2022 by Sun Yung Shin.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin is a Korean-born writer and the author of poetry collections The Wet Hex; Unbearable Splendor (Minnesota Book Award); Rough, and Savage; and Skirt Full of Black (Asian American Literary Award); all from Coffee House Press. They are the editor of the best-selling A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, as well as the editor of What We Hunger For: Refugee and Immigrant Stories about Food and Family and Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and is also the author of Cooper’s Lesson, a bilingual Korean/English picture book. With Diane Wilson, Shannon Gibney, and John Coy, they are the co-author of forthcoming picture book Where We Come From, illustrated by Dion MBD. They live in Minneapolis.
“Revelatory. . . . Formally inventive. . . . These poems also project us into the future, using the past as a resource to create materials for survival.”
—Elizabeth Hoover, Star Tribune
“Enthralling and fantastical. . . . [Shin] begs us to consider what equality looks like for all living things and how that might include the dead, engaging the spiritual, the mythical, and the animal world. While reaching into a variety of realms, from shamanism and funerary rites to the climate crisis and the inheritance of language, Shin’s writing is tight and seamless.”
—Katya Buresh, BOMB Magazine
“There are many marvels to unpack in The Wet Hex. . . . Shin’s lines glimmer and pop as they scrutinize the passage of time and the importance of legacy.”
—Diego Báez, Poetry Foundation