lotus flower blooming into breasts

i watch with hollow eyes. Relinquish everything
i once knew to let the languid motions of the film enter me
roughly. The woman kissing

something probably. Her: a beautifully vacant orifice
but for now, overflowing with something like hunger
that i swallow greedily. Her: red drool cutting through my lips.

My father changes the channel to a documentary
about the War to teach me how to properly love in korean:
roped naked women bruised beautiful on military trucks.

Love: soldiers slicing open white dresses
in search of a blood mine to satiate their thirst.
Love: a revenge for existence.

The little boy is a wannabe soldier
determined to conquer this body
that i wear & call his. Inside me his fingers become spears

puncturing dead meat & i hope to flood
the battlegrounds with rivers of leaking red. Flickers
of his cigarette land suicide missions on my skin—we are trembling.

i watch with hollow eyes. Relinquish myself
into another present: a pond overflowing with hunger.
White lotus flowers blooming into soft breasts & i

pluck its petals, lovingly.
He loves me not, she loves me not
he loves me not, she

plants misty kisses on my collarbones. i
dig them up softly
before they are tainted of me: your tenderness

has no place on this body
littered with cigarette burns blooming
into bullet wounds, a night sky across the ribcage. Dear Father

i wish i could teach you love.
Change the channel to her lips again: a hole swallowing its orifice
& breathe light into the dusk of your eyes.

Father, this is my first lesson: there are flowers that bloom in water
& boys with quivering hands
& women who love women

& daughters
who learn how to

This poem won the February Poetry Prize! 

Poetry Editor Micheline Maylor writes about "lotus flower blooming into breasts" by Kyo Lee:

A good poem hands us wisdom in metaphor. Complex comparison can become a way of knowing. “In Lotus Flower Blooming into Breasts”, a cornucopia of action, images, and reflections create a wide span of scenes, rather like a short film itself. Characters change, backstories are told, suspense is held, metaphor stacks, and allegory is achieved. The cinematic mosaic and delicate intricacy of this poem makes it the standout winner. 

A young woman looks at the camera

Kyo Lee

Grade: 11 / Sec. V
Laurel Heights Secondary School
Waterloo, ON

“I am a different person in each language, or at least that’s how I often feel. This feeling is particularly eminent for me in how I love, how I fall in or express love, when I am made to acknowledge that various versions of myself have been moulded by language and all that comes with it. This poem speaks specifically to my experience with love in the Korean language and the continued effects of war, colonialism, and related personal and cultural history, despite being a generation away. For me, this disconnect between mine and my culture’s understanding of love is heightened by my queerness, especially at its existence as a difficult and sometimes criminal status in the Korean society and language. The present day homophobia in Korea is also largely rooted in Western imperialism and the Christian dominance that occurred during and after the Korean war which further confused my understanding of what love in Korean is/ can be. However, the poem is ultimately about growing out of these broken definitions of love and redefining it beyond language or history, into a personal one. I like to think that the poem documents my journey as I learn the softer parts of love.”


Kyo Lee is a Korean-Canadian grade 11 student from Waterloo. She is the youngest winner of the CBC Poetry Prize and a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2025. She loves summer storms, annotated novels and sunsets.

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