Translated by Brother Anthony, of Taize
Copyright 1993 by Brother Anthony

A bilingual edition by DapGae (Seoul) and Cornell East Asia Series, 1998


Dad was a slave. Never home even late at night.
Only old Gran was around, like a leek's roots,
    and a flowering jujube tree.
Pregnant Ma craved to eat just one green apricot --
Ma's black-nailed son, under an oil lamp in a mud wall.
Some say I look like her dad:
the same mop of hair, his big eyes.
In the Year of Revolt Grandad went to sea
    and never came back, the story goes.
What's raised me, then, these twenty-three years
is the power of the wind, for eight parts in ten.
The world's course has yielded only shame;
some have perceived a felon in my eyes,
others a fool in this mouth of mine,
yet I'm sure there's nothing I need regret.

Even on mornings when day dawned in splendour,
the poetic dew anointing my brow
has always been mingled with drops of blood;
I've come through life in sunshine and shadows
like a sick dog panting, its tongue hanging out.

Flower snake

A back road pungent with musk and mint.
So beautiful, that snake. . .
What huge griefs brought it to birth?
Such a repulsive body!

You look like a flowered silk gaiter ribbon!
With your crimson mouth where that eloquent tongue
by which your grandsire beguiled poor Eve
now silently flickers
look, a blue sky. . . Bite! Bite vengefully!

Run! Quick! That vile head!

Hurling stones, hurling, quickly there
headlong down the musky, grass-sweet road,
pursuing it
not because Eve was our grandsire's wife
yet desperate, gasping
as if after a draft of kerosene. . . yes, kerosene. . .

If I could only wrap you round me,
fixed on a needle's point;
far more gorgeous than any flowered silk. . .

Those lovely lips, blazing crimson,
as if you''d been sipping Cleopatra's blood. . .
sink in now, snake!

Our young Sunnee's all of twenty, with pretty lips, too,
like those of a cat. . . sink in now, snake!


A leper mourned
the sun and sky.

The moon rose over the barley fields
as he ate a baby's flesh

and wept crimson like a flower all night.


The path winds between fields of crimson flowers
which picked and eaten yield sleep-like death.

Calling me after, my love races on,
along the sinuous ridge-road, that sprawls
like a serpent opium-dazed.

Blood from my nostrils flows fragrant
filling my hands as I speed along

in this scorching noontide still as night
our two bodies blazing. . .

Barley-time summer

A stony stream burns beyond yellow clay walls,
heat bleaches barley that seems to hide guilt.
Where has mother slipped off,
leaving her sharp sickle back on its shelf?

Among the rocks where a wild boar once went
gasping, bleeding, along the path, the field path,
a leper wept, his clothes all crimson,

a girl stretched snake-like on the ground
sweating, sweating,
as I stood dizzy, she drew me down.


The path my love took is speckled with tears.
Playing his flute, he began the long journey
to western realms, where azalea rains fall.
Dressed all in white so neat, so neat,
my love's journey's too long, he'll never return.

I might have tressed shoes or sandals of straw
woven strand by strand with all our sad story.
Cutting off my poor hair with a silver blade,
I might have used that to weave sandals for him.

In the weary night sky, as silk lanterns glow,
a bird sings laments that it cannot contain,
refreshing its voice in the Milky Way's meanders;
eyes closed, intoxicated with its own blood.
My dear, gone to heaven's end alone!

Open the door

Your pale breast grows colder and colder,
though I bathe it with tears, to no avail:
will it gain warmth if I rub it with this flower?

I've prayed and prayed, for nine days and nights,
but your azure breath still flees away:
will it return if I rub it with this flower?

High up in the sky, in the Milky Way,
where pairs of wild geese plough the frost,
ah! that desolate flower-bed, blue and red!

Open the door! I beg you, open the door!
Dearest lord, my love!

Beside a chrysanthemum

For one chrysanthemum to bloom
a nightingale
has sobbed since spring, perhaps.

For one chrysanthemum to bloom
has pealed in dark clouds, perhaps.

Flower! Like my sister standing
at her mirror, just back
from far away, far away byways of youth,
where she was racked with longing and lack:

last night's frost came down
to bid your yellow petals bloom, perhaps,
while I could not get to sleep.