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Three Zuihitsu by Jee Leong Koh

I walk back into the city, which wraps round me like velvet trimmed with stars.

Poetry | Zuihitsu
April 15, 2022

This piece is part of the 随筆 | Zuihitsu notebook, which features original art by Satsuki Shibuya.


When I go home with someone, there is always the question of how I leave.
I untie his embrace and make to go, whether the sex has been good or not. This way, when he implores me to stay, his pleading eyes appear in a charming light, and his fingers tighten on me in a regathering of the seam.
I stay if I like him or if it is late. He presses me against his chest or turns over to his side of the bed, and we sleep till day outlines the curtain in chalk. How delightful when he kisses me with his eyes and slips my hand down to his morning hardness. Yet another kind of delight when he bounces up to make breakfast. Pancake with maple syrup mixes in with sweat and semen.
Or I leave, despite his plea. He asks for my number and writes it in a graceful hand in a moleskin diary. He comes to the door, unlocks it in the most reluctant manner, and promises to call. I walk back into the city, which wraps round me like velvet trimmed with stars. Sometimes it is charming if he will not leave me but walks me to the train station. It is definitely not charming when he leaves with me in order to do laundry.
A friend had the frightening experience of not being allowed to leave. The door was unlocked only after he had given him satisfaction. I do not say I want to be tied up but I observe that the men I like, they let me go.


Caramel filling in chocolate. Hot rain all year round. Cold sea in the summer. A tulip browning in the spring. Babies. Pedestrians who hog sidewalks. Commuters who hog staircases. Small talk when I have not had a drink. Squeaky voices. They are especially unbearable when they read poems. Dates who talk about themselves the whole time. Dogma of any kind. It is even more hateful in the mouth of a handsome man. List poems. To be contradicted.


A flute in a trumpet case. Red wine on white linen. Sprays of heath in a blue bucket outside a Korean deli. A cheeky boy among mourners at a wake. A beautiful man married to a woman. A Singaporean in New York. The Singaporean in Singapore.
The moon in a lake.

From The Pillow Book by Jee Leong Koh. First published in PN Review, then published as a chapbook by Math Paper Press (Singapore) and translated into Japanese in a bilingual edition by Awai Books (Tokyo and New York).