The Hydrangean Candidate

Don Mee Choi



Many years ago, when I was travelling about the country, I noticed magnificent hydrangeas on the hills where the air drainage was perfect and very poor specimens or perhaps none at all in the valleys. Sway me – sway me – oh sway me – yes, ma’am. Mop head hydrangeas, mother of all hydrangeas, are the fussiest. How do you know? Chunjin born two miles from here, Captain. Every place we’ve been in Korea, this joker was born two miles from it. Tricky. Swamp all around. Yards up, maybe quicksand. How do you know? Beauty=Nation is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful nation I’ve ever known in my life. From this, it might appear that the hydrangea is a fairly simple plant, but there are more complications. And they can happen because they do – so sway me – sway me – oh sway me – yes, ma’am – spring snow is prettier than winter snow – so allow me to introduce our American visitors, and I must ask you to forgive their somewhat lackadaisical manners, but I have conditioned them, or brainwashed them, which I understand is the new American word, to believe that they are waiting out a storm in the lobby of a small hotel in New Jersey where a meeting of the ladies garden club is in progress. Yes, ma’am, Beauty=Nation is not an American word. Me=Gook, born miles from here. Nonsense, of course! Oh Mother’s mop head is marred by ringspots. How do you know? Yak dung. Yes, ma’am. Sway me – sway me – oh sway me – oh mother of all hydrangeas! My dear Yen, as you grow older, you grow more long-winded, Can’t we get to the point? Has the man ever killed anyone, or has he not? It is very interesting but the end of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century realized the beauty of publicity for its own sake as an end in itself, this is very interesting. Yes, ma’am – sway me – sway me – oh sway me – fun hydrangeas – how deranged – yes, ma’am, I think so – spring snow is prettier than winter snow – you just sit there quietly and cooperate – yes, ma’am – oh Mother’s mop head is marred by ringspots – we giggled we said that is optimism.



Lines borrowed from John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962 film) and Gertrude Stein’s Wars I Have Seen (1945).




Don Mee Choi is the author of The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) and the recipient of a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award. She has received the 2012 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize for All the Garbage of the World, Unite! by Kim Hyesoon. Her translations can be found at Action Books, Tinfish Press, and Zephyr Press.