Na Hui-dok was born in Nonsan (South Ch'ungch'o¨ng Province) in 1966. She graduated from the Department of Korean Language and Literature of Yonsei University (Seoul) where she is now in the doctoral program. She has published three collections of poetry: Ppuriege (To roots), Ku mari ip'ul multuriotta (That word dyed the leaves) and Ku gosi m'olji ant'a (That place is not far off). She is a member of the 'sihim' (Poetic Power) group of writers and was awarded the 1998 Kim Su-yo¢¨ng Literary Award for her latest volume.

Like many modern poets, she favours a style marked by aphorism and suggestive turns of phrase. She enjoys a very high reputation at present and it will be interesting to see how she develops in the coming years.

For Five Minutes

My whole lifetime seems to pass
In this flower-filled shade.
As I wait and pace restlessly,
No, perhaps it has already passed.
During the five minutes while I wait for my child
In this shade
Where the acacia flowers fall fluttering white
I suddenly turn into a white-haired old woman
And when the bus stops in front of me
After turning the corner,
It is not a six-year old child that hops down
And rushes into my arms, it seems,
But a handsome young man that comes striding toward me.
He has grown up as I have grown old.
We face each other as if
We've exchanged lives.
Life passes in a moment's waiting.
He will not come back for a very long time
To this place where I've always been waiting.
I will accomplish my waiting, murmuring something
At his ebb tide which has receded too far away,
At the falling flowers,
Or at the passing buses.
While I murmur, clusters of flowers fall again.
Look, the bus is coming.
I fly up lightly beyond the flower-filled shade.

Young Ones

Emerging from somewhere, along the deep mountain road
A seemingly new-born baby squirrel
Stares at me blankly.
Confronting the clear eyes'gaze
I cannot hold fast to anything.
All of the world's young
Saluting with their brilliant tails
Call me mother.
Without cause my heart aches
The barren breasts swell to smooth roundness.
My breasts heavy with milk and pain spreading under my arms,
How deeply my own young ones must miss my nursing!
Suddenly I recall the time that I wept as I emptied my breasts of milk.
Those innocent eyes
With no thought of escaping:
I cannot go anywhere and leave you
I cannot even leave you
I descend from the mountain road that I once climbed.
Look, minnows tranquil in a pool.

The Women Within Me

A magnolia tree through which the blood half pumps
A five-leaved tree with sharp thorns,
A couple of peony bushes with tightly closed petals,
Lilacs that have blossomed early
Now unavoidably thick with leaves,
All these different women live within me.
Having first grown attached to a tiny bit of earth
I longed for them to live putting down roots
And grasping even the ankles of my soul,
Unable to go anywhere
Unable to hear the sound of the wind.
The path of the wind existed in a place either too high or too low.
One day with pruning scissors
I wildly cut down thickly overgrown branches.
While pruning I was scratched by the thorns
On nights like those
The roots within me, those women, grew sick with fever

In another garden dozens of flowers
Exploded like fireworks one spring day,
Out of one side of my waist a magnolia barely blooms.
Among closed peony petals
Gathered raindrops did not dry easily.
The already scattered fragrance of lilac did not return.
The wind passed by, intentionally ignoring me.

After Cold Rain
-Letter 1-

All the flowers that we passionately nurtured
Say they hurt hurt hurt because of last night's cold rain.
But because it may cause you distress
I cannot be sick.
The raindrops that flowed down the railings all through the night
Also felt the same,
The last drops of rain can not even fall
But hang in the air.
How dazzling
Because of the weight of their sorrow
Are all those that dangle perilously
To drop, to wither!
The premonition of approaching serious illness
Is like the fragrance
That flowers give off before they wither.
But I cannot be so fragrant
So as not to cause you distress.

Song at Dusk

Don't close the door just yet. There is still a little time for sunlight to shine. There are songs left for birds to sing. In the ditch flows water that may yet return as a shower. Roads wind from far away waiting for our footsteps. Look out the window at the setting sun. Who knows if the days of your youth may return as your young son. Even though of late your days have been exhausting, youth may eagerly run toward the still open door. Please wait a while more. Even when you think it is enough, count ten more. And do not push anything away that comes in by itself. Even if the tail of darkness tries to come in do not rip it from the clutches of the door.