by Lee Young-Ju

translated by Jae Kim

They say a house too old becomes human, but the old woman goes down to the basement sometimes. The place is packed with rained-on barrels; pork meat she started slicing but stopped rolls around. Is that why. The legend of a rich and bountiful basement world is sometimes like reality. The old woman straightens a white finger and tries sweeping the rainwater. Dips into the rain and tastes it. What’s this sensation. Like a blood-soaked towel dyeing her white hand, this flavor. While cutting the rest of the pork with a well-honed blade the old woman starts giggling. She had thought once the dark, the crimson, love’s sensation. Even rotting away it was tasty. They’d been hiding inside her jar-shaped skirt, the pieces of cool flesh. Ground up and spilling onto the floor, even that was nice. Each time, the old woman’s basement broadened. Go down the stairs and outside the stairs without stopping and the pigs who’d been crying became the old woman’s big and sturdy legs. Once you’ve come in you have to keep going in. Like sweet barrels thoroughly ripening in agony. The old woman is aware of the fate of cruel invasion. That a breath-holding cry could only nicely ripen and continue forever to deepen. That no one wants it. That a house rises inside a person, that one keeps forgetting it. That the place is so very far and collapses like a dream. A person walking across to a person – that one must destroy the house completely to be able to go. Like so, in the basement, souls that started to go but stopped are drinking, exchanging breaths. The tinge of blood that could be rain or tears reeks. Thought that was love. The souls falter, collide against each other. The old woman who pops open a new barrel is a person prying into the sweet basement legend in a country village not on any map. A person writing her will in the white light through the uninvolved window. What kind of a fossil do you expect will form in a basement too wide to walk across? The old woman’s getting big as a large mansion. In the garden, trees having passed through a thousand years grow down and barrels get more and more bloated. I want to visit the lucid forest in the north.

Read Jae Kim’s ‘Behind the poem’ article on translating Lee Young-Ju