The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Connotary by Ae Hee Lee

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from Connotary by Ae Lee Hee, released by Bull City Press in 2021. 

Mogyoktang :: Inside

From the entrance, the steam smells of pine leaf
and boiled eggs—I sink

into one of the hot tubs, quickly become raw skin,
conditioned timidity I can’t reason away, mauve heat

blush with a nervous eye on a towel, which assured me
it would conceal the soft folds of my stomach. I’m not

alone. There are others more accustomed to bareness,
close by. Today, we all wear the same teal

waters, every quivering droplet: together
we tread the tiled floor as moons

of milk fat, of dark budding nipples and creviced
thighs, of wide stony hips, of tender

skin, exfoliated from mineral sweat and grime—and I, pulse
and curve, feel lightheaded in the

warm water, or the beauty of something so ordinary
like the body. Inside this mogyoktang, I start

to believe I can hide away from eyes and words
that hunger. I lean back, drift

into a time long before shame
was something to dress for.

Born in South Korea, raised in Peru, Ae Hee Lee currently lives in the U.S. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks: Dear bear, (Platypus Press, 2021), Bedtime || Riverbed (Compound Press, 2017), and Connotary, which was selected as the winner for the 2021 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming at Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review, among others.

Elizabeth Vignali is the author of the poetry collection House of the Silverfish (Unsolicited Press 2021) and three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Endangered [Animal] (Floating Bridge Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Willow Springs, Poetry Northwest, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. She lives in the Pacific Northwest on the land of the Noxwsʼáʔaq and Xwlemi peoples, where she works as an optician, produces the Bellingham Kitchen Session reading series, and serves as poetry editor of Sweet Tree Review.


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