Lee Min-ha – House of Parrots — translated by Jein Han

“My wing bones are itchy, father.” The daughter had gotten her first period when, one day, like the leaflet for a spycam detector slipping out of the newspaper, she unleashed words that shot up from the living room floor to the wall and from the wall to the ceiling. When the last word dropped on his sofa the father folded his paper and stood up. He had been growing wistful ever since the daughter’s stiffening neck no longer folded into portable sizes, so he went out to get a nice, angular birdcage. “I must have forgotten your birthday. Here, why don’t you rear a nice, pretty bird. It’s a bit shabby but will serve as an incredible present.” “But father, I said my wing bones are itchy. My birthday was two months ago. It was the day I sat on your lap to trim my nails.” The father was deep in thought, but when she was done he slammed the birdcage on the table like a full stop. “Why don’t you raise a small, pretty bird my child. You’ll get to grow something far more beautiful than wings. Now go ahead and paint every inch of this birdcage with your splashing blood.” And then the father curled his limbs as he shoved himself into the birdcage.

Lee Min-ha is a South Korean poet. She is the author of five poetry collections including Phantom Limbs (2005) and Microclimate (2021). She received the Contemporary Poetry Award in 2012. 

Jein Han is a translator based in Seoul. She received the ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship for Korean poetry in 2021.