Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hahm Dong-seon

Korean National Railway

from Hahm Dong-seon in Three Poets from Modern Korea, translated by Yu Jung-yul & James Kimbrell:

Journal in Jumunjin

As if painted with a thick brush, the horizon
Goes down to dusk
And night begins to settle in the empty shoreline fields.
My hometown, like the stars just blinking on,
Is somewhere on the other side of a wide, wide river —
More sensation, more memory than town.
The raw-fish restaurant sways
With the dizzy give and take of the ocean waves.
The lights from docked fishing boats are doubled
In my cup of rice wine —
I drink and drink
And though I will soon quit this work, I haven't yet looked enough
Through the train window at the trees and fields slipping out of eyeshot.
A handful of wind rises
Hauled away by night's dark skirt.


After the rain
Fell hard on the autumn roofs,
From the most far-flung house to the nearest village
You can hear the ripe persimmons
Heavy with the sun's red setting
Muttering now amongst themselves
That they are on the verge of falling.
As soon as the sun went under
As if hiccupped by the horizon,
The wind pulled in behind a train arriving from the suburbs
And let the night swell across
The field that turns
An annual crop, more or less, for fifty homes.
Before long electric bulbs are hot with light
And the first night of frost goes warm
Like the spot on the floor above the heat piped in from the kitchen fire,
A crescent moon pokes out its face
Like the curved back of a long-toothed comb.

The Last Face

Close to dawn, the moonlight
That made my teeth cold
Shone between the thatched straws of the water mill.
After my mother sewed a charm
In the waistline of my pants, the pants of her youngest son,
The one about to take leave of the war,
She described in detail the landmarks that I might need to escape,
She pointed them out as if I were looking at an unfolded map.
I ran about fifteen li in one long stretch
Alongside the mountain, the stream and field,
And arrived, breathless, at the ferry crossing.
Past the mountain, past the field, I saw
That moon — how it must have floated in the stream long before I got there.
By the time I became a full-grown man,
That charm was
Worn to a knot of sweat-soaked threads,
But I can still see my mother's face in the frayed edges.
If I pick up her face, if I hold her face,
The moon will ask me how I am doing,
The moon will wave its white hand.

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