“A Stain in the Shape of a Star” by Kim Yideum

Image by Sashanna Delina / © 2016

A girl falls from her balcony while shaking out a blanket. A woman falls off her balcony while shaking out a comforter that stinks of beard and bones. On the evening news, an ostrich flies into clouds colored by sunset. On the train, people watch the muted news and read the truncated captions.

It happens in a matter of seconds. Stains are a big headache. It’s still cold when I pull the comforter over my head. Then it gets stinky and hot. My heart starts pounding. After I surreptitiously change the cover, I spread it out, then fold it, hang it up, then take it down and pluck the feathers. The wings of the big ostrich disappear, leaving only a tattered, pink rag. This comforter with a strange stain makes no sense at all.  I kick it off because it’s annoying but then I hug it again. The memories that haven’t been properly stitched up seep out and the stain just spreads when I try to rub it off. Suddenly there is an old, hideous girl wrapped inside the comforter.

Are the heavens shaking out a comforter this evening, causing milky feathers to flitter out of the black clouds? I was chopping my hair off in front of a mirror when everyone left the house to give me a chance to kill myself. It was the night of the first snow, and the big, fluffy comforter spread out below the balcony. Against everyone’s wishes, I open my eyes. Only the doctor smiles a little, just like the time I was born.



Translated by Johannes Göransson, Ji Yoon Lee, and Don Mee Choi.


Kim Yideum has published four poetry books, A Stain in the Shape of a Star (2005), Cheer up, Femme Fatale (2007), Inexpressible Love (2011), Hysteria (2014), and a novel, Blood Sisters (2011). She received her PhD for her thesis on “Feminist Poems in Korea,” and teaches at Kyungsang University. She writes a newspaper column and and hosts a poetry-themed radio program. Kim is currently finalizing her book of interviews with homeless people in Paris and writing a new book of poems and essays while staying at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.