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While the Neat Freak Goes to Wash

결벽증 남자가 씻으러 간 사이
by Yideum Kim
Translated from Korean by
Hedgie Choi & Soeun Seo & Jake Levine
Issue 30 Online Exclusive









야, 씻었어?
아니, 비누가씻기지않아, 수압도약해


서로의바깥에서,한평생, 그런게남았다면,너는씻고나는쓴다,찢고다시쓴다,문하나를사이에두고,둘다거울앞에서죽을거면서


After you go to wash, I look in the mirror. I undress slowly and look in the mirror. Avoiding the mirror’s too-clear stare, I crouch at the corner of the bed. I look in the mirror. I go to the kitchen. I open the fridge and drink some water. I take out a mirror and look.


You went in to wash first. While you wash I turn on the radio and don’t look out the window. I don’t gaze vacantly at the dilapidating street. I look in the mirror.


How much longer?
I’m still soaping up.


I stare at your watch, try on your glasses and open your phone. I go in the closet and count your dress shirts, white, neatly hung.


What are you doing?
Just gonna shave up.


Is it because of infinite germs? The unspeakable psychological filth? Is it because of the soap stuck to the soap that you wash, wash, rewash? Go ahead, wash until there’s nothing left. Until your face is gone and your shape is squashed.


I drink coffee. I take a book from the shelf and read it. No book is placed haphazardly. I read the jacketed books, scarily lined up, categorized, sequenced. The prologues are lengthy. I was going to drink coffee again, but I drink beer instead. Overflowing.


I’m naked. Askew. Shameless. Half zoned-out, at a nude beach, I throw out books about shit like hygiene and preventive medicine. Sluttily, impurely,


I write I write I write
just like you wash.


Jesus, you finished?
No… the soap won’t come off. The water pressure is weak.


You’ll never get out. If you grab the doorknob, you’ll have to wash again. You’ll approach me, but you won’t touch. You wash. You want to stop. But you wash and wash and as you wash you become contaminated, you start to die. You wash again. Without end.


A lifetime outside of each other. If anything is leftover, you wash and I write. I tear it up. Write it again. With only a door between us, though we are both going to die in front of a mirror anyway,


waiting for each other to not appear, compulsively.




Kim, Yideum. “While the Neat Freak Goes to Wash” from Hysteria. Seoul: Moonji, 2014.

Kim Yideum is the author of 7 poetry collections, 1 short fiction book, and 2 books of essays. Though Kim Yideum is a part of Korean literary culture, she hates it. She runs a café and social space called Book Café Yideum.
Hedgie Choi is a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers.
Soeun Seo is a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers.
Jake Levine is an American translator, poet, and sometimes critic. He received both his B.A and M.F.A from the University of Arizona. He works as an assistant professor of Creative Writing at Keimyung University. His translation of Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am A Season That Does Not Exist In The World (Black Ocean 20015) was a finalist for the ALTA Lucien Stryk Prize for Translation.