In Their Own Words

E. J. Koh on “Showtime”


Something I say beforehand:
Jal butak hapnida.

This translates into, Please be kind to me,
but it suggests:

Even if I shame myself,
please be kind to me.

In the mirror, it means:
Even inside my greatcoat

of conscience, drunk and white,
please be kind to me.

From A Lesser Love (Pleiades Press. 2017). All rights reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

On "Showtime"

"Showtime" is the first poem that appears in A Lesser Love.

When a reader picks up the book and opens to the first page, they open the door to my house. My house is unfamiliar to me when suddenly there is somebody new—a visitor to startle me off the couch where I've grown listless from memory. Before a showing of any kind, it's customary to say: Jal butak hapnida. It's kindness and introduction. Looking closer, it is also a warning. What you see may be utterly shameful and inappropriate and disappointing—the wear and tear of the years, the sentimental uprooted on dinner plates, the domestic, the mundane, but it is always vulnerable. Nevertheless, I welcome them inside. I am there to greet them at page zero. I am there with them, behind each poem that is a room—the curtains, the ceiling lights, the furniture, the color stains and the night stands. I follow their impressions. Their tastes matter. Their sights bring revelation that liven up my plain old house. I wonder if I myself am a visitor of my house that in some ways is not mine. It does not belong to me because everything I am comes from the out there. Everything in here exists outside. I am not a creator, I am a curator. I am not a god, I am a translator.

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