Ae Hee Lee is South Korean by birth but Peruvian by memory. She has recently graduated with her MFA from the University of Notre Dame and is now a PhD candidate in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was winner of the 2016 Billy Maich Academy of American Poets Prize and was nominated for the 2016 Best New Poets Anthology. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at the Denver Quarterly, Cha, Cobalt, Ruminate, Duende, and The Margins, among others
after Silvia Plath
Your mouth a dribbling mouthpiece of God.
If the people do not take your words—
Raw honey glory—
You will not swallow back,
But pour and become a scourge of chronicles.
You have warned.
Your sinewy confidence?
You dare all to sink
A jagged pebble onto the pond of mud—
Many think this the absolution
Of all human kind!
Give your sister a knife-point peg
Her arm a slender, hammer of a woodpecker beak,
A long barbed woodpecker tongue.
She will dig it
Into a shrieking skull—
A scampering man on a geometric rug.
Peace a white pearl held constricted
By those that would judge.
This step-mother of a desert—
to the hills of chestnut trees where your mother birthed you
from one spiny burr. At the dingy corner shop, your cousins tell you the 500 won melon ice cream is now 1000.
Their grandmother, with a cigarette
lighted by the sun between her fingers, offers
rhombus peppermint candies.
But they prefer kitkats.
You return to a town that knew
for the life time of a wandering mutt, where childhood friends left
or replaced you with memories of you.
The beach still sells green fishing lines tied up to planks of wood
with a bag of coquina clams on the side.
Only a different set of brown hands. Only new
waves serenading the sunset
until she drowns.
You return to your room filled with books
you will leave at an orphanage’s door in a basket,
because the walls tell you this is not your home. During winter,
a squirrel visits your veranda
for the bread crumbs that fall under your table.
You invite it in but its whiskers tingle with distrust.
Surely, you will return to the mold of clay
you came from. A pillar of fire will throw
his arms up to meet you—
his prodigal daughter.
He will kiss your palms and slip
hot, ruby rings
onto your toes. You will drink deep his dark breath
as you burrow
your face on his neck,
confess to him there has always been
a faceless layer of vacuum between the familiar
and the unknown everywhere you went,
but not here.
(You will pray to him, not here)
Marcos Zapata’s La Ultima Cena (Cathedral of Cuzco)
The altiplano follows the cerulean night into the room
that shouldn’t exist.
The Son of man holds his own body up as if it were a piece of bread
while twelve fail to see the future painted behind their backs;
prophecy likes to play hide-and-seek.
But two are staring right at you,
the omniscient and the guilty.
We have a spy in our midst, they signal with their eyes.
One refers to the heart that will scatter like thirty pieces of silver
cast onto temple grounds
after he tangles a rope around its aorta.
The other— fated to look like a dark Pizarro by its creator
in both nose shape and hands colored with blood-money—
is really more preoccupied with the cuy on the golden platter
and how it doesn’t belong.