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  • Five Poems from Someday I'll Be Sitting in a Dingy Bar (1998)
  • Hwang Jiwoo (bio)
    Translated by Swaner Scott (bio) and Young-Jun Lee (bio)

Contour Lines of the Rain 1


I've lived my life like a waterfall, no, I can't say that butcouldn't I have lived like a water droplet flying around a waterfall?A rainbow suspends a droplet, defying gravity-When a droplet floats, the membrane around the void is so sweet it    seems to shudder.

"I'm going out," she slams the door, is gone."No, this room needs the sound of your breathing"mutters the man, some time after she's already left.


Standing for a moment on the road back, my résumé submitted,"The world, it doesn't want me" is what I thought.Couldn't my life's mass, weighed on a butcher's scale, always be    morethan its true weight, like the exaggerated square footage of my    apartment? [End Page 105] My life has remained just as it is, the children grow up recklessly    before I know it,the water level has risen now to right under my nose-I've always been at the limit,in fact I myself am the limit.Somewhere on my person, I don't even know where,I must have had some deformitythat others clearly saw and they just couldn't bear to tell me.When I'm exhausted because someone is keeping me waiting, sitting    in a coffee shop,looking outside, I realize how cramped it is in here.


Each time I start feeling how cramped it is in hereI think about India.The Ganges where corpses burn-I think of the Indian boy who swooned to seea bird's shadow huge upon the waterpulling nirvana in its wakebecause the world is too beautiful.Each time I start feeling how cramped it is in hereI think of a traveler gone as far as the Himalayas,who is pulled along the shadow of the mountainsnever ever to return. [End Page 106]

The Greeting 2

I trust you're well. Another year has passed.At the railing of the Tongjak Bridge I standlooking out lazily over the golden river.The water rushing westwardas if it would linger here a little longerleaves behinda surface quivering all by itselflike the fringes of a Turkish rug.That light, if only I had compared it toyour narrow scowling eyes, I thought.

I only now received the postcardyou sent from Machu Picchu.If I could set my life aside for a timein that citadel floating in the middle of the skywhere breathing itself is difficult, thenthe desire to live would rise again, butavoiding year-ends and new years, I want to find someplacedesolate and remain there, in a continuous daze,so my life would flow, be filled with questionslike a lazy bird,its head tilted as it peers down into the water. [End Page 107]

A Flash

The lightning bolt is a whip that strikes my medieval garden-the violet flash welding heaven and earth into one,a moment with nothing but the outlines of paradise, then nothing      at all.It will be a solitary instance of enlightenmentin which this fool, taken in by dreamy ignorance,will spend an entire lifetime without ever realizing it.

Shortly afterward the sound of thunder, or possibly anxiety?Someone stamping their feet on the floor of heaven-all the flowers and branches that saw the flash of light turn toash and torrential rains pour downtransforming the garden into heapsof coal-could it still be paradise? [End Page 108]

My Lotus Pond, My Sanatorium

When I take off my clothes at the public bathhousethere is something that makes me want to take off more.I can feel it from within myself,the old Indian lilac dreaming of reincarnationof changing its body into a life different from this one,

standing there, a bit hunched over,at the edge of the lotus pondlike bodies old and bent, about to enter the tub,a...