starfish lips is a bossa nova-infused indie-pop song at the intersection of melancholy and cute… Written in elementary Korean, it is about learning how to communicate across languages, but also across the subtle sign-language of gestures and inflections.

Originally written in 2000 and with this version recorded over 15 years later, the song has special significance as a marker for my recent move to Korea: Without the fluency of one’s native tongue, what should be easy and every day can become like assembling building blocks that don’t quite fit: misunderstanding a simple joke, finding directions to a destination in plain sight, attempting to describe a subtle color only through elemental tones…

In this way, starfish lips is also about the impossibility of language: ‘Like English to a fish’ there is an unbridgeable gap between me… and you. But is it possible that teaching is also a form of learning how to bridge this gap?

» buy starfish lips on Bandcamp

Album artwork by Jin Suk
starfish lips
하늘별보고 바다 보면서
두마리 불가사리 우리손
열심히 살려고 하니까
분홍색 별 귀엽다고
“Starfish lips”
내입술도 서툴러
어린애완 다르지만
이해하는 똑같은
가르침 배운다
“Starfish lips”
조용한 이유 말없다아니라
영어 붕어 가슴 가득차니까
분홍색 아이 것 같다고
너도 별이다
“Starfish lips”
Starfish Lips (translated from Korean)
Looking at the sea
to see the sky
Our hands, like two starfish
‘How cute they are,’ you said
That these pink stars try so hard to live
“Starfish Lips”
My lips are also clumsy
But in a different way than a child
The same things we understand…
What we teach, we also learn
“Starfish Lips”
The reason I’m so quiet
Is not because I have no words
It’s like English to a fish…
My heart is too full
You said they looked
Like little pink children
and you too are a star…
“Starfish Lips”
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