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  • Five Poems
  • Kim Chiha (bio)
    Translated by Young-Jun Lee (bio)

There Will Be No Return

There will be no returnonce I step, once I sleep heresleep will fall deep down in my bodythere, the white room of sleep, there, the bottomless dizziness

There will be no returnStand up,like blood on the wall, like old screaming,surprised to stand up to surprise onceI sleep then never everah to the barren road,as a traveler never again

Sound of heeled shoes all nightwalking on the ceilingin the room beyond scenes faces hands traitslaughing loudthere the white room there bottomless dizziness [End Page 283]

Eyes gaping wide at the pain of a nail being torn outshouting as a lump of flesh is brokenperhaps Ican survive as a soul alone andstanding on the road

In vainin vain, fallen friends,fallen asleep under the blanket of shame in vainunder the beatings under the kicking foot under the contempt in vainfallen friends who oncesmiled oncewept oncehad something good

Ah, there will be no returnOnce I fall into sleep,unless struggling and writhingwith mad burning eyes neverto the wind-raging roadwith my brothersas a traveler, never again. [End Page 284]


Leaning against the stone wall supported by my friend,I threw up and wiped tears and blew my nose andtried to look up at the gray sky buta fig tree blocked my sight.

Hey, I say to my friend,I have had no season of flowering.But getting fruit without blooming,it's a fig,no?My friend raising his hand and rubbing my back said,Hey,blooming inside the fruitis the fig,no?

As we staggered along the blackened streak of sewagea black alley cat quicklycrossed the dark trickle. [End Page 285]

At Haech'ang

Two men barely standingin the abandoned port town of Haech'ang,once prosperous but nowclosed for the opening of Koch'ŏnam.

They are dimly standing,one drunk one sober,not even a dog barking.Only the wind blows where the diner used to be.

On a day when clouds were drooping low, to that very placeI camehalf drunk half sober,split into halves barely standingin the waning sunset.

Quivering faintly, the sound of a cargo truckleaving town,and after the truck disappeared over the hill,so did the two men. [End Page 286]


Is it age?Everything appears dim to my eyes.The eyes are the soul's net.Everything seems dark to my soul.Even dawn comes as sunsetin the dark room where I am always hungryand I wait for the sound of scissors that comes so lateand a cockroach comes to my side andI keep silent.I wonder, outsideis it falling, the frost?I feel a chill at my tooth breaking, a thread,my jacket lost a button a year agoand outside,sharp-sighted, my wifereturns,treading on lingering warmth.Is that the sound of scissors? [End Page 287]

Simultaneous Pecking from Inside and Out

Deep blue stars are risingin evening's body,rising at the groin,in the middle of the chest, at the belly button,even in the brain.

The tree that burned me grows within me.I died andon the treerise as the crescent moon.

Love,tell me ofthe subtle time of birth.

I will emerge from the shellkick loose and emergeto become the cosmos,to be resurrected. [End Page 288]

Kim Chiha

Kim Chiha, longtime symbol of the political dissident poet in South Korea, was born Kim Yeongil in 1941 in Mokp'o, Chŏllanam-do. In 1970, he published the poem Five Bandits (Ojŏk), which satirized contemporary Korean society. This led to his arrest and indictment for violating the Anti Communism Law. He served seven years in solitary confinement. He has published many books of poetry and essays, most of which have enjoyed great popularity. He has been honored with many prizes, including the Asia-Africa Authors' Association Lotus Prize...