Asphyxiation (Day Forty-Six)

Don Mee Choi

copyright ©2018

Hence breath
Then breath
Next breath
Subsequent breath
Because breath
Such breath
And breath
Same breath
Thereafter breath
Thus breath
Always breath
Eventually breath
Perpetually breath
Yet breath
However breath
Therefore breath
In spite of breath
Breath till the bitter end

Death breathes and you dream but
it’s time to remove the ventilator from death
it’s time to shatter the dream with a hammer

Notes on the Poem

Our Poem of the Week celebrates poet-translator Don Mee Choi, winner of the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize, and now recipient of the 2021 MacArthur Fellowship for her poetry and translation. Congratulations, Don Mee Choi! The poem of the week, “Asphyxiation (Day Forty-Six)” is excerpted from Autobiography of Death (New Directions), translated from the Korean written by Kim Hyesoon. In the Translator’s Note bookending the collection, Don Mee Choi writes: “[Autobiography of Death] gives voice to those unjustly killed during Korea’s violent contemporary history, but it also unveils what Kim refers to as “the structure of death, that we remain living in. An aspect of this structure is the neocolonial and neoliberal order that has shaped Korea’s history since the US intervention at the end of World War II. Autobiography is at once an autotestimony and an autoceremony that reenacts trauma and narrates our historical death—how we have died and how we remain living within the structure of death.” Watch this video from the MacArthur Foundation announcing Don Mee Choi as a 2021 fellow. Listen to Don Mee Choi and Kim Hyesoon read jointly from Autobiography of Death.

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