Youngseo Lee

i, too, would like a manic pixie dream girl

to diagnose me
with life. to knuckle through
my belly & find light, knotted

the way skin sticks to
its wounds. a benign tumor, life

is supposed to be gentle & kindly.
it is not. she tells me i need
to fill my lungs with enough water
that i can spare more air. that’s how volume works:

to want to live, you need to push the will out
of your body. i try my best. i ask her to

save me. her holy love, my eternal grace.
green dye between my fingers & my scaling skin
under hers. my mugs & my meds all over
her cupboard. i ask her to save me from

this need for salvation. to never stop
bleaching her hair till the ends melt into a mossy
personality trait. i trespass in other people’s sunlight

but take the usual bus home. i want
to be easy to love. she medicates me

with attention. i love her. my manic pixie
dream girlfriend probing my wrists
& finding life thinned out, circulating through

my unfortunate tangibility. the faint streaks
of hot pink hair dye running to my elbows

are always near-gone. her medicine cabinet
vomits out all the listening & nodding i fed her.
i don’t help the cleanup. i’m busy feeling saved.

when i leave her, i start kicking the sunlight
bunching on other people’s lawns. what else

can i do? life starts bubbling out of my skull.
the manic pixie dream girl’s job is done.



are koreans human?1

what is an upturned palm     to a sky & a bowl
of water     to a grandmothergod? i’ve already tried     reclamation.
gook gook gook gook gook gook gook gook gook gook gook gook
     am i supposed     to be transcending
     yet?     am i     rounding these oos? you tell
     me. you tell me
                              should i lay     flat flat flat     this sound low
                                   this sound home / unhilling / boiled     ?
you tell                                                  me. are koreans
                              human? i can’t remember
where my ancestors are supposed to go. whether they become gods
& how many gods are still alive. what to survive to prove
          koreanness at the potential expense of my humanity.
     what is a grandmothergod after     birth? &
how long till our bluebodies unswell?          our haunting
     is mutual.
                                   i mix up my massacres
                           & plow into bloodflooded paddies.
                     it’s unnatural, this resprouting, this survival, i think
          i want my gods                              free.

1 Title taken from “Are Koreans Human? Our Survival Powers, the Quest for Superpowers, and the Problem of Invulnerability”, Min Jin Lee’s 2019 talk at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.



Youngseo Lee is nineteen and newly based in Virginia, though she is from Seoul and in Arizona. A 2020 National YoungArts Finalist in Creative Nonfiction and a cat lady with no cats of her own, she is the founding editor-in-chief of Pollux Journal, a literary magazine dedicated to multilinguality, and a poetry reader at Split Lip Mag. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Peach Mag, perhappened mag, Passages North, and more that you can find at