Tag Archives: 자화상

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

Self-portrait by Seo Jeong-ju (So Chong-ju)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Pa was a servant. The night deepened, still he didn’t come.

Only standing was Grandmother, old as onion roots, and one flowering ***date tree.

Though, Ma, moon-bellied, said she craved just one green apricot…

Earthwall windblock, under the oil lamplight

Mother’s son with the blackened nails

Was it the year of the Gabo Reform? Grandfather who said I’m not ***coming back from the sea

Whose thick head of hair

And those big eyes they say I take after.


What’s brought me up these twenty-three years is eight-tenths the wind.

The world’s just shameful the more I look.

While some read a felon in my eyes and

Others read a fool on my lips

I won’t repent a thing.


On any morning splendidly springing to

In poetry’s dew beading my forehead

Always a few drops of blood mixed in

Be it sunshine or shadow tongue lolling out

Like a sick dog, panting have I come.


original poem in Korean

Gabo Reform

a different translation