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  • Barley-time Summer, and: Self-portrait, and: Noontide, and: The Legend of the Tiled-roof House, and: A Kiss, and: Pretty Girl
  • So Chong-ju
    Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé (bio)

barley-time summer

A stony rivulet flashes beside yellow clay walls, the hot sun on barley seems to bleach away guilt. Where has Mother slipped off to, leaving her sharp sickle on its shelf?

Among the rocks, where a wild boar once ran gasping, bleeding, along a path, the field path, a leper wept, his clothes all crimson,

a girl stretched snake-like on the ground sweating, sweating, as I stood in a daze, she pulled me down.


Dad was a menial servant. Late one night, when he hadn’t come home, my grandmother stood waiting, like the old shriveled roots of a leek, a jujube tree flowering. For a whole month, my mother had cravings for a green apricot . . . under an oil lamp in a home with earthen walls, her black-nailed son. Some say I look like Mother’s father: his mop of hair, big eyes. The story goes that in the Year of Revolt, he went to sea and never came back. For eight parts in ten, my parent these twenty-three years has been the power of the wind. [End Page 153]

My passage in the world has yielded only shame: some have perceived in my eyes a felon, others have seen in this mouth a fool, but I’m certain there’s nothing I need regret.

Even on mornings when the day dawned with splendor, the dew on my brow was mingled with drops of blood; I’ve come through a life of light and shadow like a sick dog panting, its tongue hanging out.


The path winds between fields of crimson flowers that when picked and eaten induce a death-like sleep.

Calling for me to follow, my love races ahead along the ridge road that sprawls like a serpent dulled by opium.

Fragrant blood flows from my nostrils, wetting my hands as I run

under this scorching noon sun, as still as night, our two bodies blazing . . .

the legend of the tiled-roof house

The years that lass lived, her eyelashes so long, a long ribbon, a long red ribbon in her hair. The tiled-roof house’s millennial arching Milky Way has thickened blue, utterly blue.

That lass so shy, like shy fruit that trembles in a breeze. The green snake. The green snake that ate the mulberry fruit. With a lantern hung from the indigo sky pregnant with thunder, with lightning and showers,

Sook died silently, coughing blood quietly: she had lovely fingernails, they say. [End Page 155]

a kiss

Pretty girl, oh pretty pretty pretty girl! Off you run, out across the bean field, trampling down the fence, saying only: Come come come!

Love, with love’s pomegranate trees in flower, west wind, stars, all laughing matters. On each green hill a wild deer stands, frog with frog, green frog with green frog,

and the stream flows on towards the western sky. . .

On the ground, a long long kiss; oh, the shuddering, biting wormwood, teeth so white, set on edge, animal laughter tasting so sweet, tasting as sweet as tears.

pretty girl

Tears gush, tears gush, as your freshly washed hair hangs down, you demand sour apples to bite; what to do? This moonlit evening fenced in by the west wind, white gourd flowers all over the roof, nightingales calling under the leaves of faraway trees, insects buzzing, a flute sobbing, a long hair ribbon bright as deer call in the moonlight. Your tears overflow, though you gaze at the hills, the hills: what to do, Yon-sun? Your lips blush crimson. [End Page 156]

Brother Anthony of Taizé

Brother Anthony of Taizé has published more than thirty volumes of translations of Korean poetry. Recently, he published ten volumes of work by Ko Un, along with volumes by Lee Si-Young and Kim Soo-bok. Born in Cornwall in 1942, he has lived in Korea since 1980 and was naturalized as a Korean citizen in 1994. Brother Anthony has received the Republic of Korea Literary...


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