Monthly Archives: February 2018

Heavenward (귀천) by Cheon Sang-byeong (천상병)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

I shall return to heaven.

*

When dawn alights, hand
in hand with the vanishing dew

*

I shall return to heaven.
Together with the red glow of the sun,
just the two of us playing at the foot of the
mountain when the clouds beckon

*

I shall return to heaven.
The day the picnic ends in this lovely world,
I shall go and say
it was lovely. . . .

 

poem in Korean

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Poor Maiden by Heo-nan-seol-heon (1563-1589)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Wielding metal scissors
Ten fingers numbing in the night cold
Making wedding clothes for another
They say she lives alone
as one year turns into the next

 

poem in Korean


 

In winter
trees lose all inhibition
their arms reach up
in shamanistic contortions
sweeping the air weeping the air
beseeching to the right and the left
up and down
all is bare
why
oh why
why
cross
and silent reproach


Early on I by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Early on I was nothing
Mold on dry bread
Stinking stain on a wall pissed on, again and again
a thousand year corpse covered in maggots still.

*

No parent raised me
Falling asleep in rat holes, leeching off the poor
dying ceaselessly in any old place
early on I was nothing.

*

When we brush past momentarily
like shooting stars, therefore,
don’t say you know me.
Idon’tknowyou Idon’tknowyou,
youanddearanddarling, happiness
you, dear, darling, love

*

That I am alive,
that’s no more than an eternal rumor.

 

poem in Korean


Love in This Age by Choi Seung-ja

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Though you call, in March, no one’s home
at the foot of Dongdaemun* blades of grass are soaked in secrecy.

*

Always along the same path we
fall into the house familiarly
down into the sleep out of this world and
though you all call from the deep marsh of dreaming
my love, because the light of the four thousand year sky is heavy
(in this scape of petals falling on flowing water
irresistibly drawn one to the other)
we are clouds with fettered feet.

*

When the masked wind
calls us out because it’s night
this hour’s ardent code
this epoch’s terrifying love where
death follows death
we cannot decipher.

 

poem in Korean

 

* Dongdaemun – “Great East Gate”


Roadrunner

rr2

 

I saw you first swallowing a bird
out the study window with your beak pointing skyward
throat taut
My mouth opened likewise in dismay

*

Another time you had what looked like a ruddy berry
in your beak
Later it occurred to me that it was a tiny shrunken tomato
probably rotten from thawing and freezing on the vine
all winter long

*

Ah – you have it tough I thought
my earlier disgust all forgotten


Letter (편지) by Yi Seong-bok (이성복)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

1

I write a letter to that woman I write every day the mailman doesn’t pick it up my younger brother looks at it and crumples it up neighbors accidentally step on it still I write a letter every day walking past I see it stuck on somebody’s wall it’s stuck between the branches of a willow tree children fold it into an airplane and fly it still I write a letter every day the mailman doesn’t pick it up sometimes he picks it up I read it out loud after a drink “I miss you” . . . . Damn, today I’m writing a letter for sure

*
*

2

Hello
I’m going to throw out my memory today
I have to meet you today do you know why? it’s because I believe I can do something I’m going to be a teacher I believe it, actually, I have nothing to teach if I teach the world will be deceived by me I’m embarrassed and I’m not in good health I can’t get married I believe I will get married

*

Bye
I have to meet you
today
I have no way to send this letter to you

*

Don’t be doing well
I miss . . .

 

poem in Korean