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  • Trickery, and: Roadside Trees in April, and: Kim with Crutch, and: A Kind of Confession
  • Kim Kwang-Kyu
    Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé (bio)


Just five coins. If you toss them the result is obviously heads or tails

yet by sleight of hand the coins can be mixed up palmed tossed down picked up

even though you try to calculate all the permutations and combinations you can do nothing about it: you put down your bet and in the time it takes to blink someone has grabbed your money.

Rub your eyes and look again— still just five coins heads or tails

nothing has changed, only the question: Who’s grabbing the money? [End Page 89]

roadside trees in april

Their tops were cut off long ago to prevent them from touching the power lines. But this year even their branches have been lopped off, to prevent them from swaying if a spring breeze blows, and now their trunks stand grimly like naked torsos. When the scent of lilac deepens, memories of former April days return. But now those branches, too, have been cut, and the roadside willows weep, standing in rows, unable to put out new leaves, outraged, impatient. And unable to express their indignation, they sprout small leaves along their trunks.

kim with crutch

5 levels below ground 30 floors above ground 150,000 square yards of floor space— when they were laying the groundwork for Seoul Building Kim did the hardest jobs. Up and down the dizzying scaffolds he carried loads of gravel he helped with the plastering he applied tiles he installed window frames. Three years of Kim’s hard labor lie under Seoul Building’s foundation stones and somewhere in the emergency stairway spiraling upward toward heaven is Kim’s severed left leg, which he lost there. Luckily, he was wearing a hard hat, and so he barely escaped death. Six months later, by the time Kim left the hospital on crutches, the towering Seoul Building had become a well-known feature of the capital skyline. [End Page 90]

It housed department stores selling every kind of merchandise, a hotel too luxurious for anyone to sleep in, saunas, restaurants, and financial company offices, and a host of men in clean shirts banging away on computers, girls noisily chewing gum and recalling the night before, their time bought and sold for cash— it was a glittering TV screen come alive.

Just to revisit the place on the 13th floor where he had tripped and fallen headlong on the emergency stairs— just to see how the work had been finished off, Kim hobbled along toward the job site.

He supposed that if he happened to meet Lee, the welder, they might celebrate with a midday drink. But at the entrance to Seoul Building a janitor in a necktie stopped him, saying, “Unemployed people can’t come in here.” When Kim went around to the back entrance, where the trash is thrown out, an intimidating guard blocked the door. So Kim turned around. Who knows where he went? [End Page 91]

a kind of confession

Perhaps I was a thoughtless sort of man? I mean, I wanted to become a woman. Not because I had to shave every day, or wear long pants even in summer, and sweat, or defend the nation and earn money—not for those kinds of reasons. But because I detested a man’s other roles: not allowed to show love or to openly detest anyone; not allowed to stay quiet either; and always regarded as either a winner or a loser.

Then, when I became a woman, I loved all men—students, stevedores, farmers, day laborers, loafers, policemen, criminals, engineers, seamen, second-hand dealers, soldiers, politicians, tradesmen, brokers—all indiscriminately, and they called me a whore, and other women spat at me. I barely escaped being dragged off to prison for not honoring men’s privileged roles and a woman’s proper place. The role of a woman seemed even more difficult than that of a man. So then I wanted to become something neither man nor woman—that is to say, not human.

Consequently, last spring I became a dog...


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pp. 89-92
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