(translated from the Korean by geul)
Why do I only fly into a rage at little things
instead of at that king’s palace, instead of at
the debauchery that went on there
I fly into a rage because I got a hunk of fat for the 50-
won rib I ordered
I fly into a petty rage and cuss out the pig-faced
bitch owner of the seol-leong-tang* place
Petty cussing out
Just once, upright,
for the writer dragged away
demanding the freedom of the press and protesting
soldiers sent to Vietnam
which I haven’t managed to do
Is it that I can only despise the night watchmen who
come back three, four times to get their 20 wons?
My petty tradition is of long-standing and now obstructs me
So, for example, this happened
When I was at the 14th field hospital in the POW
camp in Busan
an informant seeing that I was making sponges
and folding gauze with the nurses
made fun of me – shouldn’t I be in the prison police,
how could a man do such work?
In front of the nurses
My resistance now isn’t a bit different from making
the sponges and folding the gauze
At the howling of a dog, I yelp
I lose to the tantrums of a whipper snapper
The leaves falling from a ginkgo tree are
a bed of thorns that I traverse
In any case I stand aside and do not stand
at the peak, very probably I stand a bit off to the side
And I know that standing aside a bit is a bit
of a cowardly thing to do!
And so I resist, in this petty manner,
not the landlord but the barber
not the county clerk not even the village clerk
but the night watchman, all for 20 wons, 10 wons
Isn’t it hilarious? For 1 won
Sand, how small am I?
Wind, dust, grass, how small am I?
Really, how small am I . . . ?
*beef and rice soup