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Horse Girl

Jimin Lee

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul International School



On the dining table, I impregnate

               my mouth with peaches as I watch

the laundry bake in the lemon sun


               outside. Once it dries, Grandma

irons, wishes she could do the same

               to the parchment skin of her palm—


every crease a creation myth untold.

               She is crooning again & I wonder

if she misses her childhood spirit.


               When Grandma looks at me, she says

horse is bad, horses bad for girls.

               Peach-juiced, jaded like trodden


snow. I was born in the year

               of the horse: the untamed beast

I am, blind to the taste of hunger.


               Horse, tell me how you earned

your haunted face & your eyes

               tainted with your bloodline.


Horse, I can’t bear to look at you

               so I imagine myself as a rabbit

hiding in the moon’s footprints.


               Grandma says that it is a shame

for a girl to be something wilder

               than herself, that rabbit


suits me better for a name.

               I want to bathe in whiteness

& cake myself in powdered sugar,


               magnolia-scented like good girls.

I want to taste what it means to be good.

* Note: Characters, dialogues, places, and events in this piece are the products of the author’s imagination and used in a purely symbolic and fictitious manner. The narrator in the poem is distinct from the author. In real life, Jimin Lee is grateful to have loving and understanding grandparents.


Like the speaker of the poem, I saw something hauntingly human in the “coal-black embers” of the horse’s eyes, and I couldn’t look away. And I was struck by the sense of longing in the speaker’s voice; the longing for acceptance, and the struggle against the heavy burden of conformity.


Jimin Lee is a Korean-American writer from Seoul, South Korea. She has been named a 2019 Finalist in Writing (Poetry) by the National YoungArts Foundation and recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, The Penn Review, Hollins University, and The Poetry Society. Her works appear in or are forthcoming from Liminality Poetry, The Penn Review, Polyphony Lit, Watershed Review, Crashtest Magazine, The Daphne Review, and elsewhere. Lee is the founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Ideate Review and an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio as well as the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. She will be graduating from Seoul International School in May 2020.

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