Tag Archives: korean literature

Jealousy is my strength by Ki Hyeong-do

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

After a long time has passed,
weakened, the book will let fall these pages
Since I erected so many factories* then
foolishly, I had that much more to record
Like a dog roaming here and there under a cloud
I loitered in mid-air, unflagging
owning nothing but sighs
In all the evening streets I left my youth standing staring blankly
Since I counted the days I’ve lived in wonderment
since no one was afraid of me
the substance of my hope was only jealousy
Therefore, first, I leave here a few scribblings
Though I’ve spent my life roving madly looking for love
not once have I loved myself

 

 

*The original poem says “factories” (in Korean, of course), but it might be more understandable if you substitute in the word “castles.”

poem in original Korean

 

 

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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


Home by Jeong Ji-yong

(translated from the Korean by geul)

 

Home, home I’ve come back to, but
it’s not the home I’ve missed.

The mountain pheasant is brooding;
the cuckoo cries in its season, but

my heart is forgetful of home,
a cloud wandering toward distant harbors.

Today too up the mountain alone
white spotted flowers smile kindly;

the grass flutes I blew in my youth don’t sound
and are oh so bitter to my parched lips.

Home, home I’ve come back to, but
only the sky I’ve missed is high and blue.

 

original Korean poem

About Jeong Ji-yong

 


Coming Out of the Old Palace One Day by Kim Soo-young

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Why do I only fly into a rage at little things
instead of at that king’s palace, instead of at
   the debauchery that went on there
I fly into a rage because I got a hunk of fat for the 50-
   won rib I ordered
I fly into a petty rage and cuss out the pig-faced
   bitch owner of the seol-leong-tang* place
Petty cussing out

Just once, upright,
for the writer dragged away
demanding the freedom of the press and protesting
   soldiers sent to Vietnam
which I haven’t managed to do
Is it that I can only despise the night watchmen who
come back three, four times to get their 20 wons?

My petty tradition is of long-standing and now obstructs me
   as sentiment
So, for example, this happened
When I was at the 14th field hospital in the POW
   camp in Busan
an informant seeing that I was making sponges
   and folding gauze with the nurses
made fun of me – shouldn’t I be in the prison police,
   how could a man do such work?
In front of the nurses

My resistance now isn’t a bit different from making
the sponges and folding the gauze
At the howling of a dog, I yelp
I lose to the tantrums of a whipper snapper
The leaves falling from a ginkgo tree are
   a bed of thorns that I traverse

In any case I stand aside and do not stand
at the peak, very probably I stand a bit off to the side
And I know that standing aside a bit is a bit
of a cowardly thing to do!

And so I resist, in this petty manner,
the barber
not the landlord but the barber
not the county clerk not even the village clerk
but the night watchman, all for 20 wons, 10 wons
Isn’t it hilarious? For 1 won

Sand, how small am I?
Wind, dust, grass, how small am I?
Really, how small am I . . . ?

poem in the original Korean

*beef and rice soup


A Long Time from Now by Kim So-wol

(translated from the Korean by geul)

A long time from now, if you were to look for me
then my words would be, “I have forgotten you.”

If you were to inwardly reproach me
“After much longing, I have forgotten you.”

If you were to still reproach me
“I have forgotten you because I could not believe it.”

I have not forgotten you today nor yesterday and
a long time from now, then, “I have forgotten you.”

 


original Korean