Youngseo Lee

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Youngseo Lee


잠결에 아침과 봄을 헷갈릴 수 있지, 고여있는 시작의
말들일 뿐인데. 그렇게 해돋이는 정원으로, 목련은
일교차가 심한 날의 찬 바람으로 엇나가고. 그럼에도
해는 자꾸 뜨고 낮은 자꾸 따뜻해지고. 널 요동치고
싶어하는 사람이라 부를 뻔했지만 넌 그렇게 뻔하지
않잖아. 언젠가 지금을 보며 젊어서 그랬다고 말하겠지.
고여있는 말들을 버티지 못하는 건 천성일텐데, 이 말도
젊어서 나온 말이 되겠지. 언젠가 지금을 보며
행복했다고 말하겠지, 어리니까.

                                    [word to word]

in sleep / morning & / spring / mixed up / possible / , /
puddled / of beginning / words / merely / . / that way /
daybreak / to the garden / magnolia / change in
temperature throughout the day / extreme / of the day /
cold / to wind / misdirect & / . / still / sun / repeatedly /
rise & / day / repeatedly / become warm & / . / you /
palpitate / wanting / person / call / almost but / you / that
way / obvious / not / . / someday / now / look / because
young / / will say / . / puddled / words / endure / cannot / /
probably is nature / , / this / language too / because young
/ left / word / will become / . / someday / now / look / was
happy / will say / , / because juvenile / .

                                    [english to english]

you are the language in my mind announcing the
daybreak / it’s today again, & this still is the wind of this
/ you, magnolia craning past winter / this
morning too is only a test / & all i have is the vocabulary
of the stationary / still the sun sets / still the nights grow
selfisher / still you puddle young / do we ever get to learn
to be anything more than childish

                                    [heart to heart]

when you said i was the first person here to speak your
language i thought to myself that you are a polyglot.
from your fire escape i grab at the trees like i know what
i’m looking for. i’ve been asked in passing if i am ever
lonely here & whenever i see leaves glossy & thick i wish
out loud that it’s a magnolia without even looking at the
trunk. will you endow me with the words to explain —
the first time i saw an acorn here i wanted to split into
its unripened flesh with my feet & i missed you. you
couldn’t have been more than a twenty minute walk
away but i was sure i would fail at your vocabulary, i
thought you were a test. i squat in your fire escape, part
of its railing & the ladder absent since before we knew of
its space, half a saltine dangling from my fingers where
might a cigarette, or a heart that fell out of my sleeve.
can’t this be enough? the leaves in reach are flimsy. i
know of people who worship magnolias for their history,
how they have been around for longer than bees, but i
just love their bigness. i am ashamed of many things,
already on behalf of my future self. five years ago i told a
boy he made me want to go to therapy so i could let
happiness be when i was with him. now i squint from
your fire escape & say, the school therapist told me how
to breathe. you are my language, i wish. we could make
sense for each other. but you are just a kid. winter will
come & some of the magnolias will bud before the snow.
one day, we will say: we were so delightful & serious &
young, so young we fed twice-bitten misery to the trees,
wishing alchemy that they would bloom the thickest
petals of ivory magnolia. is that what we’re doing? what
would ever be enough? & will you be my friend? still
when the acorns rot into their own skin & still when
we’ve talked & talked & run out of flesh to bare so we
start again, again still hoping to make sense of absolutely

                                    [me to you]

we will be happy we will be happy we will be happy we
will be happy we are happy we are happy we are happy
we are happy nevermind we will be happy we will be
happy we will be happy we will be happy we will

Youngseo Lee reads “Ode”

Youngseo Lee is newly based in New Jersey, though she is from Seoul and Arizona. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Pollux Journal, a literary magazine dedicated to multilinguality, as well as an assistant poetry editor at Split Lip Mag and translator at The Hanok Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Peach Mag, Kissing Dynamite, Asymptote, and more that you can find at