Bamboo Wife

If one bright day you find yourself moving through
the rooms of the Jeju folklore museum,

you might pause at the domestic exhibits,
wonder at the strange, closed basket as wide as

a drum and as long as a yardstick. They call
it “bamboo wife,” and carefully printed signs

tell you that in warmer months, men would wrap their
arms and legs around her cage-body to sleep,

her ribs free from flesh, the air moving through her
to cool the sleeper. Perhaps you think this a

strange marriage: the wife stiff and silent, her spouse
breathing into her the stale air of sleep, arms

locked in a tight embrace around nothing. Where
has she gone, living wife? Out to the paddy

field in search of a soft breeze, the cold water
cupping her feet as she reaches for the sky