Shabdaguchha: Logo

Poetry in English/Translation

Yoon-Ho Cho
Meesoon Bae
Chung-Woong Bae
Ok-Bae Kim
Chang Yoon Lee
Hye-Shin Lim
Maria Bennett

Chang Yoon Lee


As a lad, one out of my sisters whom I looked up
That's true, so I was convinced,
Only her love should be beautiful
With a fragrant handkerchief
The woman teacher of elementary school
Swiped my nose
Why was it me
Out of so many snotty-nosed kids.

As I waited I would grew up stoutly
To be feasible to love a girl
And now I would expect her as such a girl
Always secretly carrying in her apparel
A handkerchief full of fragrance
As though really had I such a belief
I look at your fresh leaves
August, waiting for being fully ripen
The aroma of your flowers being entirely
Fulfilled to the brim in my garden
Out of so many snotty-nosed kids
Why on earth she swiped my nose
This much aged I am
Now with those poems I write
Shall they be all right
If they are so beautiful?


I am a street tree, I know for certain
I was captured and brought over here to paper over
the painful and diseased part of the metropolitan civilization
Its structure was built of reinforced concrete, asphalt and cement
I am one of those well-tamed herd that stand motionless in rows
Absorbing all the dust, smoke and fumes

But when it's time for the last bus to leave for the terminal
For the fruits of the street lamps to grow into amber color
Let me, let us dream.
Let us storm out in the empty street
Let us make noise, block the road and march in
And as we run into angels of power
Let us kick them with the toes of thee boots
Like the extremist demonstrators in Korea
Going to any other place would be our dream
What a dreamy sight it would be, then
To see our heads shattered by the batons of power
To see the fragments of freedom broken into pieces
But before dawn, let us hurry back to our places
Let us stand as roadside trees as if nothing ever happened
Let us stand another day saturated in the strength of the
yesterday's dream

That I am a street tree, I know for certain
Like the captives carried away to Babylon never to return
Let us advance in years right here, dreaming
Of course I know those people well-tamed by the
metropolitan civilization
They are at times too vulnerable to the exhaustion, moving on the life's uphill
But they don't give up trying again and again and again to get
a hold of the truth
One thing they can do is to take out a bench under the shades
we lay down
So right here let the dreamers stop for
a moment where they are going

Autumn has done his crying and walked away;
the world, having lost its deafening ears,
remains dumb for the time being.
Yet in this season of uncertainty
between autumn and winter,
cold rains are falling quite often this time of year.
Trees brace themselves for coming winter.
When the shoulders of a lone tree are freezing
other trees huddle around, get wet together.
With them, so do my cold heart.
I call it in, close the curtain and sit at the desk.

Though it's not on account of any and everybody's sin
somewhat hesitatingly
the first snow will cover all our hearts.
Where in the world is the unforgivable deed?
This is right about us humans who could were yet another layer of sin
But my poem that no one reads
is trying to reach that tearfully true soul.
And it would desire a winter tree worthy of its name.

Under the inexhaustible snowstorm in the dark of the night
how much more do I need to strip myself?
One spring day
when the fluffs on a seed leaf are shining in thee sunlight,
I even for a short while may feel my heartbeat,
hear the first cry of the male pheasant going by nearby.
Then I wonder
What kind of glance of the eye would my poem put on?
Clad in borrowed jacket of the tearfully true soul
the poem of mine would come softly behind me and pat me on my back.
And this thinking alone inspires me
in this inconvenient season of frequent cold rains
to write a poem, though read by no one,
and to wait for the first snow to fall.

Translated from Korean by Andy Kim

Shabdaguchha, an International Bilingual Poetry Journal, edited by Hassanal Abdullah