Monthly Archives: December 2017

Snow Falling on Chagall’s Village by Kim Chun-su


(I and the Village, painting by Marc Chagall)


In Chagall’s village it snows in March.
The newly risen vein on the temple
of the young man, standing hoping for spring,
Caressing the shivering, newly risen vein
on the temple of the young man
the snow, with thousands and tens of thousands of wings,
comes down from the sky and covers
the chimneys and roofs of Chagall’s village.
When it snows in March
in Chagall’s village fruits the size of mouse droppings
once again turn the color of olives
and at night the women folk
start the loveliest fire of the year
in the fire pit.


(translated from the Korean by geul)


about the poet

video of poem read in Korean

Favorite poems: The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee


And when, in the city in which I love you,
even my most excellent song goes unanswered,
and I mount the scabbed streets,
the long shouts of avenues,
and tunnel sunken night in search of you…

That I negotiate fog, bituminous
rain ringing like teeth into the beggar’s tin,
or two men jackaling a third in some alley
weirdly lit by a couch on fire, that I
drag my extinction in search of you…

Past the guarded schoolyards, the boarded-up churches, swastikaed
synagogues, defended houses of worship, past
newspapered windows of tenements, along the violated,
the prosecuted citizenry, throughout this
storied, buttressed, scavenged, policed
city I call home, in which I am a guest…

a bruise, blue
in the muscle, you
impinge upon me.
As bone hugs the ache home, so
I’m vexed to love you, your body

the shape of returns, your hair a torso
of light, your heat
I must have, your opening
I’d eat, each moment
of that soft-finned fruit,
inverted fountain in which I don’t see me.

My tongue remembers your wounded flavor.
The vein in my neck
adores you. A sword
stands up between my hips,
my hidden fleece send forth its scent of human oil.

The shadows under my arms,
I promise, are tender, the shadows
under my face. Do not calculate,
but come, smooth other, rough sister.
Yet, how will you know me

among the captives, my hair grown long,
my blood motley, my ways trespassed upon?
In the uproar, the confusion
of accents and inflections
how will you hear me when I open my mouth?

Look for me, one of the drab population
under fissured edifices, fractured
artifices. Make my various
names flock overhead,
I will follow you.
Hew me to your beauty.

Stack in me the unaccountable fire,
bring on me the iron leaf, but tenderly.
Folded one hundred times and
creased, I’ll not crack.
Threshed to excellence, I’ll achieve you.

but in the city
in which I love you,
no one comes, no one
meets me in the brick clefts;
in the wedged dark,

no finger touches me secretly, no mouth
tastes my flawless salt,
no one wakens the honey in the cells, finds the humming
in the ribs, the rich business in the recesses;
hulls clogged, I continue laden, translated

by exhaustion and time’s appetite, my sleep abandoned
in bus stations and storefront stoops,
my insomnia erected under a sky
cross-hatched by wires, branches,
and black flights of rain. Lewd body of wind

jams me in the passageways, doors slam
like guns going off, a gun goes off, a pie plate spins
past, whizzing its thin tremolo,
a plastic bag, fat with wind, barrels by and slaps
a chain-link fence, wraps it like clung skin.

In the excavated places,
I waited for you, and I did not cry out.
In the derelict rooms, my body needed you,
and there was such flight in my breast.
During the daily assaults, I called to you,

and my voice pursued you,
even backward
to that other city
in which I saw a woman
squat in the street

beside a body,
and fan with a handkerchief flies from its face.
That woman
was not me. And
the corpse

lying there, lying there
so still it seemed with great effort, as though
his whole being was concentrating on the hole
in his forehead, so still
I expected he’d sit up any minute and laugh out loud:

that man was not me;
his wound was his, his death not mine.
and the soldier
who fired the shot, then lit a cigarette:
he was not me.

And the ones I do not see
in cities all over the world,
the ones sitting, standing, lying down, those
in prisons playing checkers with their knocked-out teeth:
they are not me. Some of them are

my age, even my height and weight;
none of them is me.
The woman who is slapped, the man who is kicked,
the ones who don’t survive,
whose names I do not know;

they are not me forever,
the ones who no longer live
in the cities in which
you are not,
the cities in which I looked for you.

The rain stops, the moon
in her breaths appears overhead.
the only sound now is a far flapping.
Over the National Bank, the flag of some republic or other
gallops like water on fire to tear itself away.

If I feel the night
move to disclosures or crescendos,
it’s only because I’m famished
for meaning; the night
merely dissolves.

And your otherness is perfect as my death.
Your otherness exhausts me,
like looking suddenly up from here
to impossible stars fading.
Everything is punished by your absence.

Is prayer, then, the proper attitude
for the mind that longs to be freely blown,
but which gets snagged on the barb
called world, that
tooth-ache, the actual? What prayer

would I build? And to whom?
Where are you
in the cities in which I love you,
the cities daily risen to work and to money,
to the magnificent miles and the gold coasts?

Morning comes to this city vacant of you.
Pages and windows flare, and you are not there.
Someone sweeps his portion of sidewalk,
wakens the drunk, slumped like laundry,
and you are gone.

You are not in the wind
which someone notes in the margins of a book.
You are gone out of the small fires in abandoned lots
where human figures huddle,
each aspiring to its own ghost.

Between brick walls, in a space no wider than my face,
a leafless sapling stands in mud.
In its branches, a nest of raw mouths
gaping and cheeping, scrawny fires that must eat.
My hunger for you is no less than theirs.

At the gates of the city in which I love you,
the sea hauls the sun on its back,
strikes the land, which rebukes it.
what ardor in its sliding heft,
a flameless friction on the rocks.

Like the sea, I am recommended by my orphaning.
Noisy with telegrams not received,
quarrelsome with aliases,
intricate with misguided journeys,
by my expulsions have I come to love you.

Straight from my father’s wrath,
and long from my mother’s womb,
late in this century and on a Wednesday morning,
bearing the mark of one who’s experienced
neither heaven nor hell,

my birthplace vanished, my citizenship earned,
in league with stones of the earth, I
enter, without retreat or help from history,
the days of no day, my earth
of no earth, I re-enter

the city in which I love you.
And I never believed that the multitude
of dreams and many words were vain.


Li-Young Lee (1957 – ) is an American poet born in Indonesia to Chinese parents. More about him here.


Snow by Yun Dong-ju (December 1936)

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Last night
snow came down in heaps


It must be a blanket to cover
the roof
the road the field
so they won’t be cold


That’s why
it only falls in cold winter


original Korean

about the poet



This is how I’ll remember it:
An argument on the interstate
and coffee in Tucson.
Somebody came over to our table
and said, “See that guy, he’s very smart — but he’s given to drink.”
Thinking about luxuries
driving through the suburban landscape
saying to myself:
“The suburbs aren’t so bad — not bad at all.
I’m sick of the dinge and the fringe —
So, this is what there is.”
And my wild, fragile youth
***********************passed away
like that.






Anchovy Love by Kim Kyeong-mi

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Remove the shit pull off the head and nothing left to eat – small anchovy

Press it and water comes out any old place


Crime of making itself sad for too long

Love you can swallow whole bones and all can’t be common


original Korean

Self-portrait by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)


I am nobody’s disciple
nor can I be anyone’s friend.
Dreaming a wicked dream in the weeds or bog
Offspring of darkness, flesh spied in shadow.


Mother, I am darkness.
From the morning old Adam and Eve
got up from the grass
I am the sadness of a long body.


In the bright streets children
twitter like birds
bloom like flowers
those dazzling natural people in the sunlight
the docile liquor they drink
doesn’t suit the split end of this tongue.
Coiled up in the weeds or the bog
only waiting for the poison of my sadness to spread through this body


Just as the child in the womb seeks
the mother’s love
facing the sky crying furtively
I dream an evil dream from the sun.


poem in Korean

“How to fight loneliness” by Wilco and Choi Seung-ja’s “In order not to be lonely”

I serendipitously discovered two poems about dealing with loneliness. One is a song by Wilco, an American alternative rock band from Chicago. I translated the English lyrics of the song into Korean in case anyone out there was thirsting for a translation.  The other is a Korean poem by Choi Seung-ja, which is translated below.


How to fight loneliness – Wilco (click to listen)


How to fight loneliness
Smile all the time
Shine your teeth ’til meaningless
Sharpen them with lies

And whatever’s going down
Will follow you around
That’s how you fight loneliness
You laugh at every joke
Drag your blanket blindly
Fill your heart with smoke
And the first thing that you want
Will be the last thing you ever need
That’s how you fight it

Just smile all the time
Just smile all the time
Just smile all the time
Just smile all the time


외로움을 싸우는 법
항상 웃어
의미 없을 때까지 이를 빛나게 해
거짓으로 이를 날카롭게 갈아

그리고 뭐가 일어나던지
그게 널 따라다닐 거야
그렇게 외로움을 싸워
모든 농담에 웃고
네 담요를 장님처럼 끌고
네 마음을 연기로 가득 채우고
그리고 네가 원하는 첫 번째는
네가 필요하지 않을 것인 거야
그렇게 외로움을 싸워

그냥 항상 웃어
그냥 항상 웃어
그냥 항상 웃어
그냥 항상 웃어


In order not to be lonely by Choi Seung-ja


In order not to be lonely
I eat a lot
In order not to suffer
I drink a bit of alcohol
In order not to dream
I swallow a sleeping pill.
Lastly, I turn off the switch
to my brain


Then all night long only the sound of the clock
walks around the empty room
However, listen carefully
Saddened by the careless absence
my shoes fall to the side and weep


poem in Korean

At Muneui Village by Go Eun (Ko Un)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

I went to Muneui in winter and saw.
How the road that led there
barely met others that split off.
Death wishes the road be desolate as death itself.
The roads close their ears once with dry sounds
and extend out toward the cold side.
But life turns around on the road
to return to the sleeping village to let fly the ashes
and because I abruptly cross my arms
the far mountain is too near.
Snow, you cover up death, what more will you cover?

I went to Muneui in winter and saw.
While holding life in its arms,
to the end, Death declines an individual death
then hearing the sound of people
it goes forward a ways and turns to look back.
Because everything is low
in this world the snow falls
and no matter how we throw stones
they do not reach death.
Winter Muneui, the snow covers up death, what more will it cover?


about the poet

poem in Korean





I’m going to hide behind
this poem
it’s my bulletproof vest
my invisible suit.
It can also do double-duty as
noise-reduction earphone.

If you wear it like glasses
you might see non-virtual reality.

Today there’s a special
discounted to $0.00



Suddenly the feeling I’m living my life wrong by O Gyu-won

(translated from the Korean by geul)


There being nothing as easy as sleeping, not being
able to do even that with eyes wide open
between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.
between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.’s dreaming
suddenly the feeling I’m living my life wrong, this feeling
douses my head with a bucket of cold water.

Having nothing to say, turning over with eyes wide open,
hugging my wet body
Since I lived my life wrong, continuing to live wrong is also a way to live
and thus the satanic night deceives me.


poem in Korean

about the poet O Gyu-won