Over the blue skies by Kim Soo-young

translated from the Korean by geul


The words of the poet
who envied
the skylark for its dominion
over the blue skies should be

A person who’s ever taken flight
for the sake of freedom
with what in sight
the skylark
how it is that freedom
smells of blood
why revolt is lonely

why revolt
has to be lonely


poem in Korean

Desolate Day by Kim So-wol

translated from the Korean by geul


The day I received your letter
a sorrowing snowstorm swept through

you ask that it be thrown in the water
I know you mean
I should always think of it dreaming

your words spilling down the page
in hangeul*
you’ve written to tell me they are tears.

When you ask that it be thrown in the water,
you’re asking me to read it with kindness
with hot tears spilling over drop by drop.


* Korean script


poem in Korean

In front of the house by Ki Hyeong-do

translated from the Korean by geul


That day – a wildly staggering winter
We were entwined then
Though it was all my fault
The all too closeness reassured me
I’m going to forget that bar
I’m going to run away if the memory returns
The guys were drunk with all their might
The look in my eyes fell like wisps of straw
No amount of shouting reached my heart
There’s nobody like him in the world
All the memories have lost their resting place
I sobbed inside the bar
That day – a wildly drunk winter
We were entwined then
The guys staggered holding onto what strength they had left
I have ugly lips
Though it was all my fault
I sobbed beside my coat
No amount of ridicule lifted my heavy heart
I’m going to forget that bar
There’s nobody like him in the world
In such a cramped place I lost my love


poem in Korean

Pandemic Spring



The trees were lethargic and dry. A certain reluctance in the budding. The mechanism of biology cranked forward in time. The earth spun on its axis. People stuffed their ears full of filthy rags to become deaf to the age-old screams. The screams, along with the prayers, floated up, pierced the atmosphere and went up to God on his tarnished throne.

In the backstreets of poverty by Bak Jae-sam

translated by geul from the Korean


The backstreets heading toward the sea were combing out hairstrands of moonlight. No, the moon itself was a fat wooden comb. Passing through Heung-bu’s wattle gate, along the backstreets, our breathing full of dreams escapes to the sea. Know that much.
When a person dies, does he not become water, fog, rain and go to the sea? In the work of living in our backstreets, surely the work of shedding tears is much and right. The night that has forgotten, like afterlife, that work of shedding tears; really and truly the sound of our poor breathing is combed out in the moon’s combing and is the sparkling of the sea where our tears have pooled.


*Heung-bu is a well-known character from a Korean folktale. In the story, he is swindled out of his inheritance by his brother Nor-bu and lives in poverty. One day he saves a swallow that is being attacked by a snake and helps the injured bird recover. In repayment for his kindness, the swallow brings him a gourd seed, which he sows. The plant grows and bears a large gourd. When Heung-bu splits open the gourd, precious jewels spill out and he becomes a rich man.

poem in Korean

Scenes at Mealtime by An Ju-Cheol

translated from the Korean by geul


When the light of the street lamp roundly pushing up the darkness is a ten-won coin
when the rising moon is a spoon that’s lost its handle
when the customer turns his back cursing because there’s no embossed toilet paper
when you watch a person buy gum just to get change
when saliva someone has spit while talking on the phone, slides down the store window
like a shooting star
when a child comes to buy ice cream
and upon opening the freezer door, enters nirvana
when the display case and Mom’s economy totters
every time the store door opens and closes
when the guys are sitting on the store bench drinking and talking noisily
and then when their voices become two bottles of soju
when a miss, with hip and lips pouting after looking for something, goes out
and seeing them, takes fright for free
when I shout at Mom to sell the damned store
when she whacks me on the back of the head
without a word
at times like these
Mom and I were always eating


poem in Korean

My eyes see the fields, the fields by Ricardo Reis (aka Fernando Pessoa)

translated by Richard Zenith from the Portuguese

My eyes see the fields, the fields,
The fields, Neaera, and already
I suffer the cold of the darkness
In which I will not have eyes.

I can feel, even now, the skull
I’ll be when all feeling has ceased,
Unless the unknown shall assign me
Some other unforeseeable end.

I weep less for the moment
Than for my future self,
A null and void subject
Of the universal destiny.

(25 December 1923)

“Ricardo Reis” was one of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronyms.

So, One day, Love by Choi Seung-ja

translated from the Korean by geul

What will you fill up
with a spoonful of rice, a teardrop
even if you were to make rice soup from the tears?

No matter how much you love me
no matter how much I may love you
I’ll have to chew today’s chicken
I’ll have to swallow today’s tears.
Therefore let’s stop speaking in metaphors
everything is definite like concrete
everything is a concrete wall.
It’s not a metaphor but a fist,
and there’s only the fist’s pulverizing.

Let’s stop trying to achieve what can’t be achieved
Let’s not say we have achieved the vanity of vanities

Go — be it love or lover,
to love is not to die for you.
To love is to live
for you,
and to wait.

Only, to be mercilessly broken.

In that way, one day, love,
tear my body to pieces.
Break off my arms and legs
and place them in your vase.


poem in Korean


I felt a Funeral, in my Brain by Emily Dickinson



I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –


And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –


And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,


As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –


And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

(untitled) by Kim Ji-Yeon


Today’s entry:
I trembled
a day’s eternity
and my blood
fending off invasion
didn’t know
which way
to flow
as your ghost
took possession.