Poetry The Ecstasy issue

Hypnosis Woman

By Kim Hyesoon

Translated from the KOREAN by DON MEE CHOI

How do you feel? Lonely. I feel as if I’m floating about in lukewarm water. Feels like I’ve become massless, weightless. Feels good. Please return to the past. What do you see? Light. I can keep going inside it. The light surrounds me. It’s so bright that I can’t look at it anymore. Please put the sleep shades on my eyes. And feminine napkins below.

You can see but you can’t speak. I ask, and you answer. You can only live in the world of answers. You eat, but I tell you what you’re tasting. These shoes are delicious! When you eat the shoes, you become vivacious. You want to eat them every second—my shoes. Even my toes.

Spit. Grab tight. Walk quickly down the hallway. Your heart beats hard when I get near you. Your heart aches when I’m far away. You smile when you see me. You don’t smile at just anyone. 

From now on, your body will lean to the left. You can’t stretch your body to the right. Your bag is dragged along on your left side. The food on the tray spills to the left. You’ve got a ringing in your left ear. Your beautiful right side is mine.

When I say TV, the TV hypnotizes you. When I say sewing machine, the sewing machine hypnotizes you. When I say calendar, the days from 1 to 31 hypnotize you. When I say 1, you raise both hands. When I say 5, you take off your clothes. When I say 6, you open your legs. Now, the numbers are commands. You’re not permitted to open your bag. My voice is inside your bag. Wipe your tears with your hand. You’re surrounded by my replacements.

You can’t interrupt my speech. You’re a one-person space shuttle circling above the infinite orbit. You can only respond to me or NASA. You can’t return without me now. At last, your heart’s hypnotizing you, isn’t it? Your heart only responds to me regardless of your own will. Try shouting after me. My heart is yours. My heart is yours.

I’m your goosebumps!
I’m your orgasm!
I’m your pocket!

You’re tired now. Your legs are relaxed. Your eyelids keep drooping. Moonlight puts you to sleep. Are you asleep? Good. You’ll forget about today. You’ll wake up after the third knock. When you awake, you won’t remember me. As you take off your shades, you might have an inkling of something.

—The night wind is quiet. The wind that doesn’t carry a command is not a wind. Water tastes really great! Where did the person who told me this go? Without the commands I’m not me. Water tastes like water. Since no one tells me, Now you can take one small step and walk out, I’m not me. I’m nothing like the mirror on the wall. The voice that said, Climb, climb up the hypnosis, the voice that lived inside me, has vanished. I’m not real without the voice that took me to that place instantly. Without the no command I’m not even no. 


Kim Hyesoon has published thirteen poetry collections, including Poor Love Machine, A Drink of Red Mirror, and Autobiography of Death, for which she received the 2019 International Griffin Poetry Prize. She lives in Seoul, where she is the honorary professor of Seoul Institute of Arts.
Don Mee Choi, born in Seoul, is a 2021 MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow. Her translation of Kim Hyesoon’s next collection, Phantom Pain Wings, is forthcoming from New Directions in 2023.