Claudia, I have this poem I need to write

By Rachel Kuanneng Lee

and it’s supposed to be in the tradition of the New York School, which
my instructor says is where the “joy” in the course’s Crisis, Joy, Time
title comes from
and because I’m finally starting to write about Korea
and because we both know the crises that chapter was for the both of us
and because this means I have to find some joy in it somewhere (and I
want to find joy)
I thought about you

remember when we went to Seoul Forest
(which I still think they should call Seoul Manicured Park)
and we saw the two apartment buildings right smack in the middle of it
Galleria Forêt—we laughed about how all truly luxurious things
must have French names and then we said,
“Let’s live there someday” like Big Bang’s G-Dragon and
Kim Soo Hyun from You Who Came from the Stars
now it’s 2020 and GD doesn’t even live there anymore

remember when I moved into the hasukjib on Yeonhui-ro and
we went to Ikea together so that I could get new sheets and a pillow
the largest Ikea in the world (c. 2014) and you got scented candles
and then we waited twenty minutes at the Ori-ro bus stop in early winter
struggled onto the too-warm 505
clutching too-full bags of bedclothes
smelling of winter spice and vanilla essence

remember when you brought me to Seo-Hye eonni’s
studio apartment and she had these huge oil canvases
with her wild-eyed carousel horses on them and the staircase
up to her loft bed, which she lined with empty liquor bottles
and we got all bougie, drinking Johnny Walker Blue
with hot water, eating goat cheese from Nepal
with honey and mini sachet after mini sachet of wasabi
until midnight oh god
to be twenty-five and to realize we’re alive!

it’s hard to believe it’s been four years
we were trying so hard to build our homes and our big little dreams
in a foreign city and even though you’re back in Milan
and I, in Singapore, we must’ve succeeded there
with our own little joys
which is why when I need to think
of something happy about that time, I think of you
and so I think of you, and I write this,
in the five o’clock evening glow of a Sunday

Rachel Kuanneng Lee writes poetry. Her work appears in or is forthcoming at Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, The Tiger Moth Review, wildness, and the Live Canon 2020 Anthology. She is a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. She is also co-founder of a data science startup and hopes that someday, she might be able to make a coherent narrative out of her career choices, even if today is not quite that day. You can find her online at

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