A woman was lifted from the sand.
She was perfectly intact, not even a split hair.
When he left they say she didn’t eat or sleep.
She didn’t die
although she kept her eyes shut
kept her breath held.
People came and took her.
They stripped her and placed her in saltwater
spread her legs cut her hair and opened up her chest.
They say he died in battle
so she ran far away from home
holding her breath.
She wouldn’t let it out into the world
and wouldn’t open her eyes though knives flew in and out of her.
They sewed her up, laid her in a glass casket.
The man she was waiting for never came,
though fingers came at her from all directions.
Each day I looked down and watched
the buried woman lifted from the sand,
her two hands dumped on paper.
I wanted to take a camel and go far away.
The woman followed me in every dream
and her shut eyes would open in a flash.
Under her eyelids it was deeper, wider than the desert’s night sky.
It was like I was inside the black-and-white photo of you looking back.
We stared at each other from different worlds.
It was always cold inside this photo of you.
Trees stood all along the river, coughing and coughing.
Whenever I opened my eyes, I was climbing a snowy mountain.
I would barely turn a corner and find fields of pure-white snow,
and an infinity of precipices jutting out beneath sharp cliffs.
There was an evening when I looked into your eyes, wide like a frozen sky.
In the village, a rumor spread about a ghost who would return to spread a fever,
so smokestacks shook their bodies helter-skelter over every chimney.
I drove you out completely. Now none of you lives inside me.
An avalanche shook inside my chest for over an hour.
When the trees coughed and snow fell off their bodies,
icicles shot up violent in the empty valley.
I sat down on a frozen bench
with my lips trembling and the wind across my face.
I wanted to get out of this place – this photo of you looking back.
Translations from the Korean
By Vanessa Falco & Kim Sunghyun