Translator: Brother Anthony of Taizé
In times when the earth and the moon were much closer together than now
and the moon looked bigger
in times when one year lasted eight hundred days and one day was eleven hours long,
you went dragging the animals you¡¯d caught in your snares,
there was a day when snow fell intent on obliterating the path you had made
and all things under heaven froze.
As the ice melted again, the world briefly grew sad,
then that nameless night froze again, just like the river,
and once the people on the far side of that frozen night, seeming anxious, gathering by the riverside, lit fires,
the people on this side of the night lit fires too, anxious for those on the other side.
Taking thought for one another that dark night
you finally cut off a finger.
In times when the earth and the moon were much closer and the moon looked bigger,
in times when one year lasted five hundred days and one day was sixteen hours long
you came to take me away.
Seeming disinclined to reveal the promise you made to God, you said:
no one survives such seasons now,
so let¡¯s return to wrinkled faces aged 120, 90, 82 years old.
However, the promise I have to keep
means advancing toward that dark, silent vanishing point.
Until the earth and the moon have moved far apart and the moon looks small.
Until one year lasts three hundred and sixty five days and one day is twenty-four hours long.
A road curves to the left; the wall beside it is deeply scored with numerous gashes.
A couple of places, gashed deeply many times, are really dark.
They¡¯re signs of insignificant efforts, striking weakly then returning with hearts vexed.
I lived behind that wall.
I lived believing it would be brief and I lived believing it would last long.
When I finally realized that I can do nothing about things happening behind my back, pinched then hardening, then pinched again before hardening enough,
My mind¡¯s bone cracked and even the ceiling was tattered but suddenly my heart went racing as at first and abruptly the nape of my neck gave off a summer smell.
Autumn is cold, water too is cold.
The moment my shadow, that had been wandering here and there in a circular cruel room
slowly nibbling leaves, sighed
At that moment might the word man have arisen?
That remote long-ago today
At the place where that word man went soaring aloft
might a sorrowful blunt icicle been attached?
It¡¯s a breast kneaded with sorrow, like the wind, like a bow,
otherwise, surely, it could never be so out-of breath.
Saying it¡¯s the sound of a far-away train won¡¯t do,
and saying it¡¯s the smell of rain will do even less.
I can grasp the inner and outer aspects of the word woman
but the word man, that nothing seems capable of replacing,
is sorrowful and cold, so as I try to grasp my wife who struggles to escape,
it seems hot blood will well from my hands.
At first sunlight appeared but then eyes¡¯ light would also appear,
the breast would appear, feelings would appear.
The wind¡¯s habit, turning one man into two,
ten men into twenty, a hundred, a thousand,
then commits them to the flames,
devouring that wind as I look back,
making the blood circulate in my tree and branches,
is what has made the millennia flow heedlessly past before you.
That wind has not yet, not yet ended splendidly.
Translator: Brother Anthony of Taizé
In gusting wind
short-stemmed plants shudder and tremble
yet no one pays attention.
Because of the solitary trembling
of one moment in the life of those slender things,
one evening of the universe finally fades into night.
Between this side and the other side of that trembling, in the gap
between the start and end of that moment, a stillness of
infinitely ancient former times, or maybe an infant stillness
destined to belong to a time that has not yet come,
is shallowly buried, visible yet not visible,
while within the spring sunlight of that listless stillness
I wearily long to fall asleep for a century or two,
or three months and ten days at least.
Then beside my infinity, bearing the name of three months or ten days,
butterflies or bees, insects with nothing much to brag of,
may heedlessly go brushing past;
at that, as if in a dream,
I think I shall recognize a familiar smell borne on those tiny creatures¡¯ feelers or wings or infant legs
as your gaze that grew so deep in some other lifetime.
Removing your clothes like old newsprint
I lay you down raw on a damp mattress and look down on you.
Your gnarled hands and feet have lost their vigor
How weary the skinny limbs and ribs look.
Using you, I earned a living,
got a woman and set up house but
the only things left are stale sweat and a nightmare road.
Again I laid the pure thing you are
in a secluded corner of unfamiliar ground.
I¡¯m not saying there were no good days, yet
the way to paying even a meager wage for your labors is far away.
Now I¡¯m wondering if I would like to go away quietly,
simply leaving you sleeping here.
What about it, body?
An approaching butterfly—
what can that be on its back?
I don¡¯t know; a scrap of declining midday¡¯s lonely shadows
in one corner of an empty house¡¯s yard?
Could it be the weeping of a child left alone
the rice and kimchi soup it¡¯s eaten?
Could it be a weeping like layers of dirt emerging,
accumulating on jaw and front?
Bearing on its back a midday no one takes care of, a blinding solitude,
as it goes. How far
are you going, butterfly?
Before it, there were days
when I felt like silently kneeling down.
Translator: Brother Anthony of Taizé
I walk across a frozen pond.
Here is where the water-lilies were.
Under here was the black rock where the catfish would hide.
Occasionally a cracking sound as if it is splitting
as love grows deeper.
All the irises are bent over.
My shoulders, knees, feet, that all summer long I saw reflected, sitting on this rock, have frozen like the irises.
They too show no sign of having watched the reflection of something before this.
Although the fourteenth-day moon comes in its course, icily
all remain silent.
Suppose someone comes along,
loud steps treading on the pond,
and addresses me anxiously, saying:
¡°This is where I used to be.¡±
¡°This is where that star used to come.¡±
After examining the stump of the plum-tree outside the gate buried years ago,
there being as yet no sign,
back in my room after adjusting my icy shadow,
I unrolled and hung up on the eastward wall a painting of pink plum-blossom
by Master Ko-San.
Plum-blossom painting was a favorite pastime of people long ago, so suppose I
wash my face, at least, sit down and greet the old days?
On branches extending hesitantly to the left, five fully blooming flowers,
after bending it again, on the branches appearing on that part four buds now spread,
uh uh, five,
so on which of them do I wish I was now?
The love in retrospect
and the void in anticipation are crystal clear.
After full consideration, going out with icy shoulders
I once again squat before the plum-tree stump.
As the sound of evening bells comes close at dusk,
darkness comes, rocks come,
and someone¡¯s eyes come too,
come . . .
When I turned off the light everything revived with open eyes; I was really afraid.
I shut my eyes.
As I grew up, when I turned off the light
nothing could be seen; that¡¯s good.
Smiles may rise,
tears may suddenly emerge,
And then, after that,
finally turning on the light again,
all at once I¡¯m already thirty, forty or fifty.
When I turn off the light
everything seems just like a pond;
embracing in my arms the air as it slips away,
like wild rose petals falling
I feel my pulse.
Translator: Min Eun Kyung
A girls' commercial high school graduate, I lived in the hills of Ahyeon-dong with insects and their long long feelers, an orphan though not an orphan, worked as a clerk for monthly rent, monthly supplies of rice, for that I sold my youth, my flower-like youth, who says I was sad? I would meet my friends in college and stutter but it was not poverty keeping me from school, an orphan though not an orphan, I would stutter too when the insects with their long feelers crawled out from the bikini-thin closet, ooh-oh-oh, on Sundays I would eat a bowl of sausage in the Ahyeon market, no one asked why I always came alone, and I ate in grateful silence, an orphan though not an orphan.
A girls' commercial high school graduate, I worked in a tall tall building, spent my flower-like youth realizing it was not I who was tall, but who says I was bitter? In the unlit room the insects with their long long feelers prospered, scurrying away into sightless spaces, not unlike myself, my family though not my family, my eyes blinking as I lit the coal and thought of dying seventies-style in the invisible haze of coal fumes rising, but the insects' feelers kept tap, tap, tapping my brow, ooh-oh-oh, my family though not my family, my flower-like youth tasted of insects, in an old Ahyeon bookstore I met the man who woke up one day as an insect, stroke of luck that comes once in a lifetime, and now I am true family with the insects with the long long feelers, ooh-oh-oh, see how I tap out my telegraph lies, tap, tap, my lies of a poem!
In the shadow of the man she stands, her grief lonely as papyrus scrolls with their secret epistles, do they cry do they confess are they lonely, are they lonely like the music of Piazzola, are they sad like the shadow of the flowering hawthorn tree, or perhaps not, or is that all? In the man's shadow that has no eyes, nose, or mouth she stands muttering, as if she were slicing an apple, let us say that love is just love, she slices off the man's eyes, nose, and mouth, she feasts, and laughingly spits out the man like a black apple seed.
Translator: Min Eun Kyung
The dragonflies have disappeared from the sky
My hands are empty
Hands that held on to the days
Once more, I slowly open my eyes
My hands are empty
I walked by a stern tombstone
How can I, a weakling, fathom the diamond in the Diamond Sutra
The day will come
Just as the dragonflies have disappeared from the sky
The day I will be gently released from this place
Where did they go
Did they follow the summer thunder
Did they follow the summer thunder
They landed in noisy droplets on the leaves of grass
The snow that fell in bells all night has stopped
I stand alone my thoughts are far
Small bird, red-breasted bird on the vine
You came and wept Suddenly you are gone
Why did you leave so suddenly leaving me no time to call your name
Your cry is tender, tender like winter light passing through the papered door
Who is it that draws up that cry from my ear
Someone once came to visit left tears
Dyed red in my heart
No one can now remove
In Room 302, Gamcheon Hospital, a room for six,
she lies wearing an oxygen mask, battling cancer.
Like a flatfish resting on the ocean floor, she lies flat and low.
I lay myself by her side, parallel and flat as a flatfish.
As one flatfish glances at the other, her eyes swell with tears.
In her thinness one eye has skimmed over to the other side,
she only looks at death while I gaze at the sea of her life.
I recall her ocean life, swaying left and right, in the watery seas,
her wooded trail, its noontime cuckoo song,
thin noodle dinners, a family that owned barely a mud wall.
Her two legs are being slowly broken apart,
her spine bent like a tree branch crushed by the sudden snow.
I think of that winter day.
Her breath grows rough like the bark of an elm.
I know now she cannot see the world outside of death,
her eyes are swept into each other¡¯s darkness.
Left, right, I rock toward her to lie next to her in the sea
as she blankets me softly with water inhaled through the oxygen mask.
Translator: Wayne de Fremery
Go to the tangle of wild rose bushes, you said, when you left home before the wedding that spring morning.
Shaving an eyebrow in the mirror, I was sure I¡¯d forget you before a crescent moon rose in its place.
In town, the wedding hall would have been noisy; the bride would have cried tears of joy. I hurried toward the thicket to read the letter you left under a white bowl turned upside down. I read some of it, but couldn¡¯t finish.
Time passed. While I wandered, twenty years went by in unfamiliar cities. A gong sounds and we jump on stage, startled. In the bushes on the hill near home, there is the faint white light of that soup bowl;
Then, as now, the flowers were white, white like the dumb. Without eyebrows, without even eyebrows, a May snake sobs in the thicket.
I keep alive the memory
of my visit to the paulownia. I needed a rest;
we embraced, and my arms just reached around his waist.
Had the black goat in charge of the strawberries
lost his bronze bridle?
He was ripping up the entire patch.
The paulownia said it. The turtledoves near my crown use a scrap of sky
for a blackboard at their school and the shade on the cultivated soil underfoot covers ten pyeong,* extending as far as my roots. It was his whole life, he said.
Maybe that¡¯s what made the yellow paulownia noodles, served with mossy shade,
that I ate sitting beneath the tree, so delicious.
Perhaps that¡¯s why the cold tea his daughter served was so refreshing.
In those days, the seasons were really intense.
The crimson berries and the goat¡¯s two horns were a mess.
At the creekside the stones and the carp bellies got so hard.
I still remember the paulownia on the hill.
The paulownia mailbox at the entrance to town across the bridge, the old paulownia grandfather clock in the entryway running five minutes slow, the paulownia clogs to which yellow clods of earth still stubbornly clung, the clack of the paulownia cutting board coming from the kitchen . . .
On top of the giraffe¡¯s long, lofty head there are vestiges of an ancient hilltop lake. I wonder who put the thirsty gourds up there? And in those missionary days how did the clams climb into those waters?
Counting stars one night, we used the giraffe¡¯s neck as a net handle and landed some. Those grazed by his head crooned and time flew like stars falling.
I fell more than once when I was young, climbing the sunflowers to remove the stones adults had weighed the heads down with to stunt their growth. Now I know the sorrow of the yellow-billed oxpecker in Africa hanging from the giraffe¡¯s steep neck and back eating ticks.
Ah, to buy one day a ticket for the orbiting train that scales his nape to cross the plateau, to collect the homerun ball knocked out of a distant park to give to children, to wander and pick icy red lilies that resemble his horns.
Hey, he said, coming close, wearing a pointy hat and balloons strung in clusters around his neck. I¡¯m tied up today because it¡¯s Children¡¯s Day, but when the zoo closes sometime soon, let¡¯s go for a bite in the reeds. Look at that ridiculous creature lumbering back to the kids who call after him. Look at the last chieftain of the poetry tribe.
Translator: Wayne de Fremery
Opium poppies swayed in the turtle's eyes,
Nakhwa Crag* commanded three thousand palace women at its side.
The cat beneath the car tire,
the cancer cell beneath the rib,
live mewing, mewing.
When, across from the hospital, far away,
trains cross the Han River bridge,
when they creep, creep across
like green cabbage caterpillars,
the snowstorm in the mustard seed,
the distant hills in the cuckoos' cries,
intent on forgetting the body,
intent on forgetting the smell of the world,
under the eyelids, into the daydream,
under the cliff and the cherry blossom.
The peacock outside the art gallery is dressed in feathers
the color of an emerald I once saw in a ring.
Giving away his crest that wobbles as he totters
to be the trademark of Prince brand crayons,
he drags his fanned tail over wet ground.
Was there ever a duchess who no longer wished to be beautiful,
having once been found beautiful?
Where should all those jewelled rings be put down?
Old ladies dragging their skirts on muddy ground,
forgetting they are birds,
grope for a corner, fearing the footsteps of young pranksters.
What will the old ladies do with the spark in the blue eyes
Set in their feathers?
In the hometown left behind it seems there is a subway stop called
Crimson Star. It seems it's been left too far behind,
and there is no return.
Vacations aren¡¯t for photos,
and strawberries aren¡¯t for plates.
So what then?
Strawberries in winter.
Winter strawberries. What is this?
It¡¯s cold now, but there are strawberries at the market.
¡°Two baskets, 7,000 won!¡± he shouts.
Berries used to come from the Suwon patches
where young lovers went each May to gaze at each other
and touch for the first time.
But this isn¡¯t what I wanted to say.
These stories about sweet-nothings, about winter strawberries,
so many empty words.
Hearing that a visitor was coming,
I washed the curtains and windows, swept and buffed the floor,
and bought winter strawberries at the market.
I bought them because he kept shouting, ¡°7,000 won!¡±
The short-lived December sun sank
and the visitor came.
We were noisy with high laughter
and the winter night passed
as strawberries were plucked from the plate.
I put the leftover berries in the refrigerator
where they shrivelled.
But this is not really what I wanted to say,
this talk of eating strawberries,
loveless and vacant;
these threats and withered phrases
served with the reality that winter strawberries must rot.
That¡¯s still not it.
Now there are winter strawberries unwrapped in my fridge.
Winter strawberries have come and winter too.
It¡¯s so cold. I¡¯m so cold.
I put them in my grocery bag
and in my refrigerator.
But what¡¯s this? What?
It¡¯s winter, and the strawberries are red, beautiful, adorable.
They are charming,
No, in the end, it¡¯s not
Translator: Kevin O¡¯Rourke
I opened the window onto the street
and called thick fog into my rooms.
Fog that obliterated the traffic lights.
The fog evaporated after crossing the window sill.
Even fog loses its way here.
Material things gulp down the thick fog.
Still they rub dry, sandy eyes.
Fill me up!
Thick fog crept like the tide
through the window that opens to the sea.
Fog that obliterated the horizon.
The fog flowed into me after crossing the window sill.
Even fog reels here.
Fill me up!
Fog wet the chair; fog wet the mirror.
Material things suddenly were one with the fog.
The heart has two contiguous rooms,
each careful in its movements
not to waken the other.
All that moved between the rooms
was the silent, restless, undulant fog.
Nothing exists except the ladybird and me;
we both stole into this room to avoid the cold.
The ladybird crawls laboriously along the floor,
flails the air in upside-down collapse,
sits abstractedly on the open page of a book,
and - as if suddenly remembered -
unfolds its tail wings for a zing dusting.
The zing of the wings cuts the heart
like a tiny electric saw.
Through the window winter sunlight
illuminates the ladybird¡¯s dappled back.
And when it also illuminates
the eyes that are watching the ladybird¡¯s back,
the inch worm within me
addresses the ladybird within you.
We¡¯re both a bit insect like;
what colloquy can we share?
An odour given off;
a buzz as we circle each other;
A joint flailing of the air
as we get turned upside down;
an idle stirring of pollen
as we slither between pistil and stamen?
What warmth can we – part insect as we are –
share before we desiccate
in a window nook?
A handful of winter sunlight
short as the stumpy tail of a roe.
I gave myself to the music;
my feet slid away and I began to cast off time.
Thread unraveling within me
slid sul-sul-sul-sul across the threshold.
Feet danced past the bakery, past the laundry,
past the park, past the local tong office,
past your table and bed, past the graves and the grassy fields.
They did not return. What now?
¡®Keep dancing!¡¯ the world cried.
Though my legs be threatened with amputation,
I can still give myself completely to the music.
Remember I¡¯m wearing my snug pink shoes.
Do you hear the melody in my blood?
Do you hear the water crossing the embankment?
I¡¯m at liberty to go where I please, but I go nowhere.
The sun does not set here no matter how I dance.
The bobbin within unravels, endlessly,
like water flowing over the embankment.
Threads tangle, roads tangle.
Axe raised, the city rushes at me,
trying to capture me,
but I cannot stop dancing
because of pink shoes I put on so long ago,
somnolent for far too long.
Translator: Kevin O¡¯Rourke
impaled in air;
300 km an hour.
Sky drops hawk.
Two eyes and beak
form a keen triangle,
Shocked air particles
lumps hacked out
At the yard entrance
where the hen disappeared,
two or three
fluttered and fell.
is like a reclining Buddha,
chin cupped to the right.
First village under heaven.
slaps his tail across his back.
Mountain and valley
seem fuller now.
a mendicant monk
crosses the ridge,
his body in his rucksack.
The function of a hand
is to seek another hand.
Heart accedes to heart.
When me being me
is unbearably strident,
and me not being you
is unbearably strident;
and I spend the day in bed
exhausted by the effort,
And when the here and now
seems like life¡¯s endgame
and it seems like I am about to leave me,
look for the hands.
Left always seeks right;
two hands seek a third.
Hands are always alone;
an empty hand is heaviest.
I could barely raise myself
to drink a drop of water.
That¡¯s when I knew
there¡¯s a tiny measure
of poisonous indebtedness
¡®Thank you¡¯ cannot exist on its own;
thank you always implies indebtedness.
Yesterday evening you were thankful;
this morning I am indebted.
The role of the hand ultimately
is to seek another hand.
The right hand seeks the left.
Hands join before the breast
because empty hands are so heavy,
because indebtedness is so heavy.
On the persimmon tree growing on a hillock in front of our house, a pumpkin grew.
One shoot from the pumpkins we had planted on the bank of the field at the foot of the hillock
had been climbing higher all summer long until it was hanging from a bough.
It had not been visible while the foliage was thick,
but once the leaves had fallen, the trail of the vine clinging tightly to the trunk as it climbed stood out clearly, like a vein.
It must have had a hard time climbing up the trunk bearing its heavy burden. Seeing how the vine
still hangs in the air even after the late fall frost,
it must have carried sand and gravel and built a scaffold all summer long. If that pumpkin vine
had crawled over the ground, it could have grown a pumpkin comfortably,
could have laid it on the soft grass of the hillock,
so why did it hang the pumpkin dangerously high on the bough on the steep hillock? Looking at that pumpkin vine,
some may laugh, saying: It must have really wanted to build a sky garden . . .
Looking at that house of cards hanging in the air, some may click their tongues,
but the vine must have continued on its way since there was a road there.
Whether it led to a precipice or pit, the vine must have continued on since there was a road.
Just as footsteps crossing the desert where standstorms blew, where sand tombs rose and scattered,
scattered and arose again, opened up the Silk Road and built Loulan,
the vine must have gone stretching on, since there was a road, to hang its fruit in the open air.
Though weakened like a dried straw rope by the coming fall weather,
it must have crawled tenaciously to hang its round pumpkin, like the moon, on the height of impossibility.
Today, cautiously climbing up a ladder, I will harvest that pumpkin,
and place it in a clay dish in my room to gaze on for a long time, oh the power of such climbing things.
A slug is crawling
Over a streamside stone.
With no house on its back
wrapped in protective colors, without any shell,
its whole body shielded in a slippery secretion like saliva,
naked, it is idly crawling along.
With its tender, soft skin open, defenseless
- a little finger of sunlight would reduce it to powder -
the slug seems to be enjoying a stroll
or perhaps it hopes to enjoy a nap on a streamside stone bed,
crawling along at so idle a pace, it seems to be walking in its sleep.
Just like Diogenes emerging from a wine barrel,
following the movement of water and clouds like a wandering monk,
abandoning to the world the house on its back,
roaming in robes that it seems barely to wear,
It goes walking slowly, so slowly, with footsteps following cosmic laws.
Feeling sorry at the sight of it, my wife covers its naked body with a cabbage leaf she has just washed in the brook.
But the slug, after wavering for a moment, soon emerges from beneath the leaf as if finding it bothersome.
Clear off, shade!
I intend to be smaller until I start to grow small. I am a small person, a smaller person, a dog, a cat, a finger, a matchstick,
I obstinately stared in one direction. A frowning look lingers in my every wrinkle. Something impressive, light, pain,
Since my first breath, I¡¯ve gone on breathing. Ah, the beginning is like that. The beginning forgets the beginning and the last does not know it¡¯s the last. Ma, I shouted as my first word but in vain. If it were Dad, oh, my God!
When I start to grow small, it¡¯s the start. I am a smaller person, a smaller dog, a smaller lizard, a smaller voice, an interference of waves, the untouchable sky,
And a refraction of waves, a touchable raindrop, a raindrop, a larger raindrop, I was a shower passing with a gust of wind. Small people with umbrellas turned inside out like the world, stuck to the window for a while I am smaller circles,
Inside the window three children are playing the game of scissors rock and paper to decide the rules and roles. One child stretches out his palm and rattles off mysterious lies about a vanished coin but
I couldn¡¯t hear the whole story through to the . . .
A party, exceeding climax, to wonderland. At climax. Chicken¡¯s combs we. Thin. Soft. Passing climax chicken¡¯s combs we. As a token of love we peck at each other.
At climax. Once past climax we stop. Can love be stopped?
Already chickens, our stomachs and vowels like violins. Like the white and black keys of a piano. Like a drum. Like dishes in a sink. Began to play. Breast and frail wings. Chicken¡¯s feet are crushed. Like egg bombs exploding above our heads.
From wonderland to no-wonderland. Like infiltrating moisture we. Like winds crossing seas. A little bit warm and a little bit filthy. Like music we. Like pink spring.
Like a summer day. Strong smells. We want softer skin and clothes like feathers. Singing about the things we want, back to the days before our birth. We recalled something like the smiles of old age. Our song echoes a long time. Till the end. Perfectly. Does not disappear.
People who do not come to the party take off their clothes in the early evening. Lying down in a more distant place like smaller babies. Like little girls turning their faces to one another. Fall asleep. Clap Clap Clap. Ha Ha Ha. The party moves farther away. As it flows away, it¡¯s full of the people who did not come. Angry chickens stretch their necks and flap.
Tottering off to Wonderland.
At the moment the horses separated from the carriage
the carriage didn¡¯t say Stop!
didn¡¯t stand and think
I do not think
I write, like the horse¡¯s hooves moving away from me
Like the characters of the finale dramatically collapsing
like an actress rising again and taking a bow with a dazzling smile and saying goodbye on the stage
Like other people
Like a whip curved in the air
I touched and
I write, never erasing after writing, I write
passing a murder scene, a fallen knife, a hand fallen again, a rake, my poverty
Like a pursuer¡¯s hand
I become bright
Once the king¡¯s fist is made
bang, my wings
beat down on a round table center and then soar
dices falling onto the world
Born without arms he was a painter drawing wind
Holding a brush in his mouth he drew
winds no one knew on the canvas
people couldn¡¯t discern the shape of his drawings
but his brush would flow far away and back
voicing the soft breath of a child
If drawing did not come
he climbed up a cliff and opened his mouth for months
searching for a color no one had found yet
He would dump a dark volcano deep into his eyes
He was drawing
his two hands he had left in the womb
I no longer foster quietude.
I take turmoil as my servant.
Dim-sighted, in the midst of turmoil
I write poems with my ears wide open.
Though the ear looks like a devil¡¯s ear,
once the turmoil is erased, I am an empty shell
like the 2,500 golden pagodas of Pagan
opposite to where silence follows autumn¡¯s track.
In this city I hear turmoil.
Not today but from yesterday I
write poems in the midst of turmoil. Thus
to me only turmoil is proof of reality.
Where there is no turmoil is a dead place.
I invoke turmoil and write turmoil.
Without turmoil, language becomes disquiet
and my poem does not progress.
Taking silence with me, I search for turmoil
to be near turmoil, to live together with turmoil in turmoil,
I rely on the rim of the devil¡¯s ear.
Unable to let go of that light,
I intend to return turmoil to language.
Quietude is a form hiding turmoil.
In the midst of darkness nothing can be written.
In turmoil words work without a break.
In the midst of dazzling turmoils,
a single breath that binds language tightly,
my poems become intricate in turmoil.
Once the snow melts, a multitude of waterdrops in a red pine¡¯s xylem
Inside there is one single flower that refuses to rise.
Aware of the flower¡¯s resolve not to rise, the owner
presses down on the calf-shaped bulbil to prevent it rising from the navel.
Only one single unknown flower that yields to all the other flowers
does not open its soul at the dizzying tip of a branch.
It cries like a frost flower on a cycad. Language of ice that never blossoms,
though all flowers standing with one single flower inside their breasts eventually blossom, it changes its body in the xylem, rising then going back down again.
At the very moment when numerous flowers are being hurt outside,
One tooth-like rhodiola flower that neither perishes nor vanishes after blooming,
placing that unutterable name which exists inside the red pine
in the xylem during the midnight snowfall,
one single flower freezes white like ice-porcelain.
Ah, inside the ice a flower is running like time.
—At a Hospital in Seoul
Today is the 100th day she has been lying sick.
The fishing lines tugging at the neural networks inside her flesh,
she transforms slowly into a bed.
It¡¯s hot, a flower of massive pain blossoms.
Only her small tongue is alive, as if her whole body has been slashed.
Her body is as tiny as the tip of a cat¡¯s tongue.
She spits out the pain of her death throes like contempt.
Death is fighting to make her oblivious to fear.
In a room painted by the deadly struggle that wrenches bone and flesh
on the bed bullets explode and spears fly.
The woman becomes a slave. A four-sided bone-bed
supporting the pain that presses on bones
like a piano keyboard that sounds when touched,
she shouts her sticky pain.
Battered body torn to shreds,
spit out your cursed body as you die.
On the 101st day, loathsome as a nightmare,
with each bone-splitting word
a high-rise crane lifts up the woman¡¯s bones,
lightly lifts the iron rods into the air.
When I suddenly woke up feeling hungry
I felt sorry for the people I had left in my dream. Because of me,
their journey in search of the rainbow hill must have been troublesome.
Butterfly! Butterfly! Outside the window someone is anxiously calling a cat named Butterfly.
I said, meow, meow, here I am, and there I was,
crying for no reason hiding under the quilt.
Then I felt sorry for myself. Butterfly is Butterfly, what butterfly is a cat, and I closed the window with a bang.
Would I be feeling bad if I¡¯d been pricked by a thumbtack, a small, rusted thumbtack, been infected with tetanus, and forced to have my arm cut off?
Days spent being stained by slow music,
a hair comb, a single button, an old postcard,
for no reason I began to dislike the things that await my touch,
and buried them deep in the backyard. When snow falls and winds blow
may grudges like spears grow someday out of the small graves here and there, and poke out my eyes.
Around sunset, disliking those clouds sitting plump everywhere,
today I bought a sweet, delicious walnut pie
a sweet, delicious walnut pie that would slide in and melt in my mouth.
When it dropped to the deep bottom of my stomach
someone in a dark corner of the kitchen, unwillingly,
said . . . love you.
Crows that resemble their mother . . .
Pumpkin-yellow car and sweet cookies . . . rainbow . . . night street . . .
This is the world that I met at the end of beauty and sorrow.
We were five all together.
Crows that are happy because they¡¯ve become crows
would occasionally talk to me
but I could not hear what they said. They seemed to say:
Shall we eat cookies together?
Shall we eat cookies together?
That¡¯s what I understood and I nodded in agreement.
From the car muffler rainbow-hued smoke was
rising, spraying like paint.
None of us looked back,
but we all knew, and became all the closer and more intimate,
like sisters reconciled after a bitter quarrel,
so that our hearts grew warmer with feelings of love.
We held each other¡¯s hands, and I smiled like the crows¡¯ younger sister.
The crows worried about my future and encouraged me,
like kind and caring sisters . . . dream-like time,
tears ran timidly down my cheeks, this is
what they call the scent of the rainbow,
this, a story of the sisterly love of sisters who ride a car together,
a black-hued street with nothing more to wish for, this is
the family, the warm food, the time of affection,
and the future that we have longed for so dearly.
I hated and felt afraid to open my eyes.
This is the world we meet at the far end of beauty and sorrow,
while I eat cookies together with my four sisters,
sweet words that keep ringing in my ears:
We ate cookies together today,
We ate cookies together today.
Cars whispering as they speed along,
sisters, I felt bitter that I was born with eyes,
and I hated and felt afraid of drooping shoulders, arms, and trunk,
of these two hands and legs that will rot and decompose.
At the far end of the beauty and sorrow of sharing cookies together,
there is another dirty and stinking world of flesh, blood, excrement, semen,
that I hated.
While eating cookies together,
munching on cookies together,
as I was no longer able to call the crows my sisters,
I eventually jumped out of the speeding car.
Blood, blood, blood, my knee was bleeding. Get away,
sisters . . . Those sisters who really went away, this is
the sound of the ring of a pledge that slipped off and fled.
This is the smell of a family irrevocably cracked,
a blood-red street that could not be more conspicuous,
this is the war, the stale cold food, the time of hatred,
the present time that we hated so much,
I no longer hated or feared to close my eyes.
The car carrying the crows vanished into the distance,
the rainbow disappeared,
a world where things like cookies to share cannot be found.
At the time when heartless sisters,
rolled and fell down from the pumpkin-hued roof,
like the armpit odor of the crows sticking to the tip of the nose,
We ate cookies together,
We ate cookies together,
a fleeing voice,
a rainbow, a night street, a time that will never come again.
Into that stomach I go, beginning with the fierce jaws and leading down to the sacred asshole, he drags me in whole and in this long round tube, there are no coarse twinkling scales, only soft flesh, a flabbily fluctuating bottom and walls, with doors hanging dark and damp, so many doors each with several slimy knobs, whose addresses I don't know and, well, no telling if the doors open inwards or outwards, no telling if here is inside his stomach or inside mine, if I am feed, or he, his feed, if either I or he and I are someone else¡¯s bone with little pieces of meat sparsely clinging to it, I mean my flesh that hasn't yet been digested and smells fetidly rotten and from the fierce jaws, outside of his and my time, he gulps down a bowlful of saliva dribbling from a horse drooping like the tongue of a dog in midsummer and though we have reached this place we can go neither in nor out so we just have to stay here as through the sacred asshole wind exits hissing and he drags me deep into his stomach, ever deeper while the wind smells like a widower who has stayed faithful to his dead wife his whole life long, holding brusquely onto my thin hand, he turns the sleek doorknob and in a flash his face changes into something neither completely like him nor unlike him before his face becomes blurry again. I thought there were too many damn doors and knobs on the doors but perhaps there were none at all. Ultimately, here, inside this languid stomach ceaselessly writhing neither fully inside nor outside uncertain even of my own whereabouts, I . . .
Up on the roof the horses have unfastened their bridles. They are neighing with laughter. The old men are having a party, a party, their faces crimson, or pallid, all those who starved, drowned, or were shot to death, as sons, daughters, daughters-in-law, grandsons and granddaughters crowd together. Out of the blue, clip-clop, clip-clop, a sound of horses¡¯ hooves up on the roof. Old women lie down on the table. Their wrinkles go gliding off their bodies. The party table is heaped high with discarded wrinkles and the old women are gobbled away. Skins, bowels, tendons, and even brains, all are scooped up and devoured, then the white bones are sucked clean and meanwhile the roof is silent and the unbridled horses scatter skyward, crimson, crimson, neighing with laughter. Old men with no teeth reveal their black gums, the lively hopping roads peep at the party table. Sons, daughters, granddaughters, have all vanished, unable either to come or go while the weeds at the roadside outside in the dusk sway to and fro, having a party, a party.
The yellowish heart, its blood completely drained, disappears toward the back of an alley, swinging alone its parched veins. Pain follows quickly. At a black bus stop, the man turns his belly over like a red-bellied frog. His belly is red. Redly the man stays still. There have been too many protrusions on his way here. Redly he dries. He will soon be brittle, become invisible. Even though the heart that lost its color comes back, there will be no way for it to find him. There¡¯s no knowing, no way of knowing whether a batch of baby reds will be hopping or crawling, or turning around the black bus stop.