Five Poems

Five Poems

Translated by Jack Jung.

Fire Pot

The absolute cold touches the room’s skin. The absolute cold covets the room’s inside. The room endures. I struggle together with the meaning of my reading. When I hold the fire pot tight and pull on the house’s centre the glass window caves in and like a tumour the absolute cold pushes down on the room. Unable to endure any longer the fire pot cools off and I don’t know what to do inside this suitable room from the cold. The ebb tide must be pushing in from some sea. Mother is formed on the finely shaped floor of the room and she takes the fire pot from where I am hurt and carries it into the kitchen. I can barely remember the riot but a branch forces itself out of me and grows. I stretch out my two arms to block the glass window and the laundry clubs begin to beat on the dirty clothes on my back. Mother carries off the absolute cold on her shoulders – it is a miracle. When she places on my body’s heat an armful of fire pot, warm like a cough medicine, my reading gets scared and falls head over heels.



Breathing in the dark air is bad for the lungs. Soot settles on the lungs’ walls. All through the night I exaggerate my pain. There ended up being so many nights. Sometimes they get carried out and sometimes they get carried in, and after a while all is forgotten and it is daybreak. Even inside the lungs the morning is turned on. I look around to see if anything has been lost over night. The habit has returned. Many pages have been ripped out of my shameful book. On its gaunt conclusion the morning’s light gets carefully written down. As if the noseless night will never come.



No matter how much I pull on the door the reason why it won’t open is because the livelihood inside is not enough. The night is nagging me with its fierce scolding. I can’t even begin to say how terribly annoyed I am in front of the name plate on my house’s gate. I enter the night and like a straw effigy I am destroyed limb by limb. My family is cornered inside the sealed window door – must I be imported in? Frost comes down on the roof and its sharp points are stained with the moonlight like needles. My house must be suffering and someone must be strenuously stamping a seal on it. The lifespan must be getting knocked down and pawned off. I am just hanging on the doorknob like a drooping iron chain. Trying to open the door that won’t open I am trying to open the door.



On a white paper the man faintly draws with a pencil a basic outline of the person’s life. So immaterial. I put in my money and my past and make an entry of myself into its noise. But in that space there are only promised handshakes with strangers, and when I get lucky enough to dress myself with a piece of blank space neither its height nor width fits. I find an empty spot and stay there quietly as long as I want. My stomach starts to hurt. I have swallowed up all the painful pronunciations. I beat up the wicked paper and seize it by its collar and drag it out but the man and the money are gone and the tired past is sitting alone with a blank look. Saying that no seat should be kept here the person digs up and ruins the spot. I feel empty and vengeful toward the side-stepping evil rest. The man sees the person living out his life right where he sat down and runs away a little.



Coughing. Air spitted into air with barely enough force. This way of suffocated walking is my story and the coughs are the punctuating marks the bored air massages till they decay. I walk for about a page and before I can cross the railway there is someone behind me who is taking steps on the path I have taken. A hurt thing is cut down by a dagger and melds with the railway to form a cross. I have to collapse so I drop my coughs. After loud laughter a pungent ink is spilled over a self-mocking face. My coughs drop and settle down on my thoughts and start to blabber. A breath is stifled.

Yi Sang is the pen name of Kim Hye-kyung (1910–1937), who was originally an architect before he became one of the most controversial figures in Korean literary history. His dark, sensual poems were some of the first Dadaist and Surrealist writing in Korean literature. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis at age twenty-two, he quit his job as an architect to write full time and became friends with notable Korean writers of his day, eventually joining a modernist literary group who called themselves The Nine. In 1937, during his stay in Tokyo, he was arrest-ed by Japanese police for reasons unknown. His disease worsened in the jail cell, and af-ter he was released, he died within a month.

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