Two Poems by Esther Lee


Labanotation #9

you a mammal
hired then fired from
a fact-checking
department, caught
writing a letter to
your perpetrator, it’s all
about the now, you say,
calendar on the wall
stopped at October,
maybe you are tired
of escapes but what
you wouldn’t do to see
what you never see
in reverse—skyward rain,
teacup reassembling
and jumping back
onto the counter, weight
of the earth not killing, which you
think means a living
system pre-adapted,
an arrow ceasing to exist



Labanotation #13

………….I became a dancer because I had an accident.
…………………………………….—from One Day Pina Asked

Without music they stare at each other and

as if to comfort her, he approaches

and brings along a swarm
and pinches her nose
and rubs her cheeks, her hair
and chews her fingertips
and scratches her head, pulls her shoulders,
and pokes-prods her knees, her skin,
and lifts her up and taps her chin
and slaps her thigh and pats her stomach.

Meanwhile, near the ground, a cloud is tried away, revealing the grid

where you, a grown woman, wear sensible heels.

The phenomena make you both full and empty.

The following week and the next: He brings along a dissimulation and, with beaks, pinch her
nose, peck her cheeks, her hair, and nibble her fingertips and scratch her head, pull her shoulders
and poke and prod her knees and lift her up and tap her chin and prick her thigh and pinhole
her stomach.

Geometry shapes you into compliance, quiet desperation a spiderweb spreading over a face much
like your own.

Soon enough rain will collect in her to slip through.

A clenched jaw will give way to the dotted line.

Perhaps what moves will say: Thank you for letting me see your faces.


Photographic response by Nerma Sofić

Esther Lee is the author of the poetry collection Spit, selected for the Elixir Press Poetry Prize and nominated for the PEN Open Book Award and Asian American Literary Awards. She has also published the chapbook, Blank Missives (Trafficker Press). Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, Verse Daily, DIAGRAM, Hyphen, The Normal School, Born Magazine, Salt Hill, Lantern Review, and elsewhere. A Kundiman Fellow, she served as Editor-in-Chief for Indiana Review and her work has received honors, including three Pushcart Prize nominations. Her second poetry manuscript titled, “Chromogenic,” was a recent finalist for the Kundiman Poetry Prize and National Poetry Series.

Nerma Sofić was born in 1985. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo and works as a photographer and designer. 


Published on July 6, 2017.

Click here to read more on The Borders Project.

Related Post

Poets and Power: Language of Resilience from Centr... An introduction to our feature on Poets and Power: Language of Resilience from Central and Eastern Europe   “It’s a common observation ...
Stormwarning by Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir   Translated from the Icelandic by K.T. Billey   MATERIAL we loiter under the sign like wandering horses the pipes sing and...
The Outlaw by Jón Gnarr, translated from the Icela... Jón Gnarr’s The Outlaw is a liftoff and a time machine, an anthemic yet singular coming-of-age story. Translated by Lytton Smith, the third and fi...
Arabia Felix: The Danish Expedition 1761-1767 by T... Translated from the Danish by James McFarlane and Kathleen McFarlane.   On a calm winter morning, on 4th January, 1761, a company of fi...