Monthly Archives: March 2017

Fog by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

1

Morning to evening the canal is wrapped in thick fog.

2

Anyone who comes to this town for the first time
has to pass through the great river of fog.
They must stand on the long dike like lonely cattle
until the people gone ahead are slowly erased.
Until suddenly they feel how they are confined alone in a hole in the fog and are ***appalled.

On some days the fog’s legion takes not a step from the canal
until the yellow and brittle sun hangs
above the thick air’s sheet of paper.
Late factory girls pass giggling on their way to work
Children seep out sluggishly
between the black and taciturn trees freed from the long darkness.
People unused to the fog, at first for a time,
won’t let down their guard while walking, but soon like everyone else
they bore through the fog this way and that. Habit is
really a convenient thing. Readily the fog becomes part of the family
and like mad they flow along
until the electric pole in the distance reveals its faint torso.

Often on days when there is no fog
all the faces walking along the dike are unfamiliar. Wary of each other
they pass by quickly; clear and melancholy mornings, however,
are rare. That’s because this place is the fog’s sacred ground.
When it grows dark the fog takes off its newly washed clothes layer by layer above the canal. In an instant the air
fills with a white and hard liquid. Plants and factories are sucked up inside and
a man a few steps ahead is cut in two by the fog.

There were also a few small incidents.
In the middle of the night a factory girl was raped.
Though her dormitory was close by, as soon as her mouth was covered
that was the end of it. Last winter
a drunk froze to death on the dike.
A man on a tricycle passing by said that he
thought it was a mound of trash. However, that
was just a personal misfortune, it wasn’t the fog’s fault.

When the fog dissipates near noon
the factory’s chimneys together aim their wet gun barrels
at the sky. Though a few wounded men
have left  this sewer, spewing fierce curses,
they were quickly pushed out of people’s memories.
For not one person has returned to the town.

3

Morning to evening the canal is wrapped in thick fog.
The fog is the local specialty.
Everyone owns a bit of stock in the fog.
The factory girls’ faces are white and lovely
The children grow up strong and all go to the factory.

 

poem in original Korean

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I know it’s spring

*

 

 

I know it’s spring
because fruit flies drown in
small puddles formed around
the bathroom sink

and decapitated roaches lie
waiting for me
at dawn
the cat’s nightly amusement

and I eye the large rectangle of sun on
the carpet with longing
Soon I will have positioned myself there
on my back, following
as flowers do in summer
the sun arc across the sky

*

*


The Silence of My Beloved by Han Yong-un

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

He has left. Ah, my beloved has left.

Breaking through the blue light of the mountain towards color-soaked woods I took the lesser path thrusting wildly forward.

The sure and splendid promise, a golden flower, turned to cold dust and blew away in a breath of gentle wind.

The memory of our searing first kiss turned the hand of my fate, then backed away, vanishing.

I was deafened by the sound of his fragrant voice and blinded by his flower-like face.

Love is a human affair and so in meeting there is already within a parting, which I have not failed to reckon with, but separation comes unawares and the surprised heart bursts from the new sorrow.

Yet, I know that making separation a useless source of tears spoils the love, so I transfer the strength of the overflowing sorrow and pour it into the crown of a new hope.

Just as we worry about parting when we meet, when we part we believe that we will meet again.

Ah, my beloved has left but I did not send him away. The love song that cradles my melody enfolds my beloved’s silence and circles it.

 

poem in original Korean

About Han Yong-un


Old Person by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

He is easily found out
like some kind of hard lump
unable to flee,
crouching in the shade of the park’s wisteria tree

*

He is sitting
permitting himself only the smallest of movements
my face, my spread shoulders, firm muscles
quietly licked
by the greedy glint in his eyes

*

I hate it, his short pants and the
mouth dribbling with spit and
his grizzled mind that’s
unable to perceive this

*

For the sole reason that I’ve never been there yet
I spit on his world
For the sole reason that he is already a place of exile,
I, protecting my world,
not one step
of his intrusion can I forgive

*

Suddenly I look at him, at the same instant he
drops his gaze to the foot of the wisteria
fumbling unceasingly with his clothes
still with mouth open
as if there was something he wanted to say, as if inside his body
something still remaining was burdensome

*

 

poem in original Korean


Favorite Poems: The Jars by Paul Celan

(translated by Pierre Joris)

 

At the long table of time
God’s jars are boozing.
They guzzle the eyes of the seeing and the eyes of the blind,
the hearts of the ruling shadows,
the hollow cheek of evening.
They are the mightiest of boozers:
they raise to their lips the empty as well as the full
and don’t spill over like you or I.

 

original German poem