Seven Poems by Kim Yeong-seung
Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé (An Sonjae)

Published in the review Bol Volume 5, Spring 2007 (published by Insa Art Space, Seoul)

Hope 939

It seems a child who’d been living alone with its father
spent several days beside his father’s dead body,
boiling instant noodles to eat.
Apparently he told no one of his father’s death because
he hated the thought of being sent to an orphanage.
Oh, loneliness more fearful than death!
That child came to realize far too early
the fact that loneliness is more fearful than death.
The smell of its father’s rotting body
is more full of affection
and the quiet night of the child,
all the happier for lying there beside it,
grows ever deeper.

more fearful than death

As rain falls, quite intoxicated after copying out as a preface Pak Sang-Cheol’s poem “More fearful than death” (Hyeondae-sihak, April, 1998), I add my tears to the green billows.

Why, that child’s father was love.
That child’s father was love to the very end.
That child’s father was love even as a corpse after dying.
Not abandoning him, crying, “Why have you done this to me?”
that child cooked instant noodles and ate at his father’s side.

I become that child, and its father too.

(From: Hyeondae-munhak, May 1999)

Introspection 100

The coal briquette merchant came with his two daughters, pulling their handcart.
“Dad, this house is a hundred briquettes, right? That won’t take long, then.”
The two girls, still not beyond childhood, transport the briquettes and stack them up.
Their faces smeared black like their father’s, they work cheerfully.
If I have daughters, I will speak out.
You just transport two at a time,
the merchant said, himself carrying four at a time.

(From the collection Banseong (Introspection) Mineumsa, 1987)

Introspection 743

I simply operate the white switch
of the low-down electric fan with my foot.

Then abruptly one day
I was struck by the thought
that I was wounding its self-respect.

I felt really sorry for the fan
I was hurt.

--Like the front teeth of a very tame animal,
like neat hands laid on knees

Purchased by my elder brother
the fan, like a pretty maid,
is bowing its head.

Like a good little girl puppet in a children’s play, with innocent eyes,
speaking in tones so good they make you want to cry:
“Why are you doing that, mister?” “Help me.”

As if to show that help is needed, to the left
there was even a timer attached
while it was ready to shake its head to and fro, too.

This sultry summer,
my room half-underground,
the propeller moving that submarine
the fan.

That pastor with oil-slicked hair on the construction site for a new church
had been giving his orders,
getting on our nerves,
indicating this and that with the black nose of his shoe.

I shouldn’t turn off the fan with my foot
I should turn it off with both hands, respectfully, bending down.

Things made by people are like people—
atom bombs and crosses
and condoms, too

and the machine with which
a merchant is busily making hollow waffles
this rainy evening.

(From the collection Banseong (Introspection) Mineumsa, 1987)

Introspection 673

If I happen to meet a member of my family outside,
I feel sad.

If I see mother, if I see my older brother,
if I see Minky
I feel sad.

If I see them outside,
in a bus, at a bus-stop

In a hospital, a police-station . . .
beside a smoking

neighborhood trashcan.

(From the collection Banseong (Introspection) Mineumsa, 1987)


Introspection 744

Why do you put on airs like that?
Why do you absolutely have to put on airs like that?

Why do you have to hit me with briquette tongs
as I go staggering along drunk?
Why do you have to break my ribs?

That night as heavy snowflakes poured down
why did you pollute that purity?
Why with drops of my blood on the snow
with drops of my blood, drunk as I was,
with drops of my blood, though I wasn’t hurting you at all

why did you make me write your so charming name?

(From the collection Banseong (Introspection) Mineumsa, 1987)

Winter tears

Today I’m crying
just crying
weeping, simply

I was freezing cold

If you ask why I’m crying,
I don’t know . . .

But on the TV
some pitiful kids

no father
mother sick

so sick she needs a kidney transplant
no money for treatment
if they offer to donate a kidney
they’re under age so it’s not allowed

having seen those three kids
I’m crying

I’m good
at crying

Heavenly Father,
thank you
for making me cry.

Please, make me laugh, too.

(Published in Incheon Mundan No. 1, 1993 and in the collection Musoyu bodado challanhan geukbin, Nanam Publishing, 2001)

Hope 164

This winter, frozen white, in the hell on earth known as Cheongsong Penitentiary, in a similar paradise, a similar great hall, I’m told they eat supper at 3:30pm. I wonder what they eat.

They’re probably eating
frozen white rice with boiling hot water poured over it
and coarse black lumps of salted radish large as fists
crunchy with black rock salt.

With bold hearts.


Kim Yeong-seung

1958 Born in Incheon
1977 Graduated from Jemulpo High School
1983 Graduated from the philosophy Department, Seonggyungwan University
1986 Poetic debut, publishing 3 poems in the fall issue of Segye ui Munhak
1987 Published a volume of poetry, Banseong (Mineumsa)
1988 Published 2 volumes of poetry: Cha e sillioganeun cha (Ugyeong) and Chuigaek ui ggum (Cheonghak)
1989 Published a volume of poetry in collaboration with Jang Keong-il: Simpancheoreom duryeoun sarang, and a volume of essays Oneul haru ui jugeum (Mineumsa)
1991 Published a volume of poetry Areumdaun pyein (Mihaksa)
1994 Published 2 volumes of poetry: Mom hana ui sarang (Mihaksa) and Guitae (Chaeknamu)
2001 Published a volume of poetry Musoyubodado challanhan geukbin (Nanam chulpan)
2002 Awarded the 3rd Hyeondaesijakpum Prize