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

 

 


Empty House by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Having lost love I write
Farewell, my abbreviated nights
Winter fog that lingered outside my window
Candles that knew nothing, farewell
White pages that waited for the horror
Tears that stood in for hesitation
Farewell, aspirations no longer mine
Like a blind man fumbling I now lock the door
My poor love, locked in an empty house

 

poem in original Korean


Ache-in-the-bone Regret by Hwang Ji-wu

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

I’m sad

Every place in which I’ve loved

is all a wreck

Completely breaking
Leaving everything completely broken, as if without that insignia
you couldn’t say you’ve sincerely loved
The people who’ve come to me,
each damaged in a few places,
have left

In my heart always the moving desert shrine in the haze;
there is sand driven in, to the inner chamber erected by the wind’s pillar,
the faggots rolling around roots and all,
and sand rasps in the ear of a dead beast
drying up in the sun

Not through any kind of love or lunacy
could we enter this monstrous place
together. My squirming desert,
in the end, the feverish idol
that could not abandon the self rose up crimson and groaned
and the spaces of my love are all in ruins

That I have never loved anyone;
passing through this world who knows when we’ll return to
my ache-in-the-bone regret is just that
not for anyone,
that I have never once loved anyone

In my youth, my self-imposed hardships
were never in sacrifice for anyone
sacrifices for me, no more than a competitiveness commanded by duty;
could that also be a power? For those who don’t even have that
how splendid sacrifice must be

Thus, I didn’t love anyone
my ruin that no one ever entered;
only the wind breathing the words of the sand
in the ear of the dead beast lingered and passed by
I now wait for no one
No one believes me or expects anything of me

 

About Hwang Ji-wu

poem in original Korean


Seoul Winter by Han Kang

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Someday when someday comes and that someday you come
if on that someday you come as love
my heart would be suffused with shimmering water-light, your love
submerged in my heart
could hardly breathe,
I’ll be your respiration, on your ink-black lips
I’ll be your labored breath, if you come, my love,
if you could but come;
on my iced-over cheeks
I’ll let you hear the river-sound
that you love so

 

original Korean poem

about Han Kang


England in 1819 America in 2017 by Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King;
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,—mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’ untilled field;
An army, whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless—a book sealed;
A senate, Time’s worst statute, unrepealed—
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.


Grass by Kim Soo-young

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

 

The grass lies down
Waving in the east wind that drives the rain
The grass lay down
And finally cried.
After crying the more because the day was gray
It lay down again.

*

The grass lies down
Lies down faster than the wind
Cries faster than the wind and
Rises before the wind does.

*

The day is gray and the grass lies down.
To the ankles
To the soles of the feet it lies down.
Though it lies down later than the wind
It rises before the wind
Though it cries later than the wind
It laughs before the wind does.
The day is gray and the grassroots lie down.

 

poem in original Korean