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SEO, Jeong-ju (WIDANG)


On seeing Mudung Mountain

Poverty? Mere tattered clothing, no more!

How can that conceal our natural flesh, our natural mind?

Those are like mountains in summer, that stand

exposing their dark green ridges under a dazzling sun.

All we can do is raise our children

as the green hills raise orchids in their shady laps.

When the afternoon lengthens

and declining life ebbs drop by drop away,

you husbands and wives

must sometimes sit

and sometimes rather lie side by side.

Then the wife should gaze into her husband's eyes,

the husband lay a hand on his wife's brow.

Though we lie among thorns or in wormwood ditches,

we should always think we're like jewels, buried alone

and at least gather moss thick over us.


Beside a chrysanthemum

For one chrysanthemum to bloom

the nightingale

must have wept like that since spring.

For one chrysanthemum to bloom

the thunder

must have rolled like that in sombre clouds

Chrysanthemum! You look like my sister

standing before her mirror, just back

from far away, far away byways of youth,

where she was racked with longing and lack.

For your yellow petals to bloom

the frost must have come down like that last night

and I was not able to get to sleep.


Complaint from a swing

- Chun-hyang's first monologue

Push hard on the cords of the swing, Hyang-dan,

as if you were launching a boat

out toward distant seas,

Hyang-dan!

as if you were pushing me off for ever

away from this gently rocking willow tree,

these wild flowers like those embroidered on my pillow,

away from these tiny butterflies, these warblers,

Hyang-dan!

Push me up towards the sky,

no coral, no islands there!

Push me up like a tinted cloud!

Push up this pounding heart of mine!

Strive as I may, I cannot go

as the moon goes to the west.

Push me higher and higher still,

Hyang-dan,

like waves pushed up by the wind.



Self Portrait


Father was a servant; he never came home till late at night.

My aged leek-root grandmother and the flowering date tree were all that stood for permanence here.

For months mother would go on about how she'd love a green apricot, just one...

lamplight on earthen walls,

this black-nailed mother's son beneath.

Grandfather went to sea, they say,

in the year of the Kabo Reform; he never returned.

I'm supposed to have his thick hair and big eyes.


For the last twenty-three years I've been raised,

eight tenths of me at any rate, by the wind.

The more I see, the more shameful the world appears.

Some read sinner in my eyes.

Some read imbecile on my lips.

But I rue nothing.


Blood drops mingled on my forehead with the dew of poetry

when morning cracked each brilliant new day.

Through light and shade I've come this far,

panting like a tongue-lolling sick dog.