Issue 3 / Poetry

Poetry by EJ Koh


A man who drinks between my long white columns

tastes history:           the first time I touched my breasts,

then below, when I changed into an ocean from a dam—


my belly a sculptor of people, fed by the milk-springs

of my mountains. The smell of coins mixed with something

sweet, like corn, metallic savory of the hard youth I lived


while washing my stained underwear in a bucket on the street

—hanging on lines that rocked above my head like a nursery.

The coloring both lightest pink and hardest rose, freckled


where women of my family have freckles. The shade matching

the sort of my lips. When my mouth is dry, I too am

elsewhere. How about the shape—the suckle, the cinch, the prissy,


pretentious and shy until held by the eyes. Soft

as the bottom of fruit, bruises; hairs like the hairs inside a bite

of mango. A man who places his ear on me hears the roar


of his blood surging through him. His tongue speaks

until my own speaks the same cooing language.

We must enact what it means to live off one another.



Korean Art

Twenty-nine baldheaded babies face inwards,

making a circle. One gazes into its right corner.

Another, whose skin is pink albacore, stares

towards its bottom left, or my cousin tells me,

where we look when we lie. My cousin fears

she won’t find her husband single. We drink


hot cocoa, examining the pretty girls that walk by.

I say, Who cares? Laughing, my cousin says,

All my life, I’ve felt envy. She finishes her cup.

You can tell a lot about a country from its art.

Do Americans sculpt weeping heads? Looking up,

I’d never seen wrinkles carved into baby skin.

I wonder how I’ve gotten away with anything.



EJ Koh is a poet and translator of Korean literary works. She has appeared in World Literature Today, TriQuarterly, Southeast Review, Narrative Magazine, Columbia Review, and Privacy Policy: The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics from Black Ocean Press (ed. Andrew Ridker, 2014). She has been featured in Flavorwire’s “23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry” and Culture Trip’s “10 Americans Changing the Face of Poetry.” She accepted fellowships and residencies at Kundiman, The MacDowell Colony, and the Napa Valley’s Writers’ Conference. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry and Literary Translation at Columbia University in New York. She taught as a visiting scholar at the University of Washington and currently lectures at Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Selected by Michelle Peñaloza.


I’m curious about writers and technology—podcasts, storyboards, films, cross-genre features telling stories audibly, visually. Rather than shirk from social media and entrap ourselves in the traditional definition of publishing and literature, we have the option of wielding what is available to our generation. If we’ve learned anything with the Internet, it’s that people need stories; that won’t change. The way we explore literature, hopefully, adapts and transforms while the ardor and craft remains.

Image modified from © Senia L. via Creative Commons