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  • Five Poems
  • Yi Seong-Bok (bio)
    Translated by Juhn Hye-Jin (bio) and George Sydney (bio)

About Time


a mason's life is breaking stone, and a grocer's life isstanding all day      my friend who looked like Montgomery Clift      used tohang around a third-class double-feature movie house      I don't      know what's become of himtime has passed and will continue to pass      on the morning of the      first dayof the year two thousand I'll have a grandson      well, I've got to gothe cars to paradise flash past,the roadside trees stand in straight rows      over there, a child grins,      twirlinga mouse by its tail

time, frozen dayssisters who after working all night at the factory slept through sun-bright days


as I followed the river of weariness, from time to time on myforehead [End Page 63] a wild strawberry bloomed, most of that isfantasy, in reality, from time to time my elder brother sireda son      laughter burbled from my father      again some fruit fellfrom a naked tree      from time to timea red horse crossed the iced-over sky pulling a cartloadof yŏnt'an briquettes      most of that is fantasy      in reality,some children, bent double, were rooted on a hilllike red-pepper plants left uncollected during harvest      in reality,      my emasculatedfriends disappeared singing current pop songsbut time did not fly away      it was sometimes found deeply asleepinside a worn abandoned shoe,and from time to time it plummeted upside down like a      shotgunned birdlaughter burbled from my father      as I followed the riverof weariness, from time to time I restedupon a bird's nest high up      most of that is fantasy too


time passed and nobody was able to come backfrom the deep dark stinking holea letter was returned several times answers were always to be      found in the debris of questions, and friends would give outlike toy airplanes with spent rubber bands      when I was too tiredto even masturbate, the white roots of grass in a frozen swampswam before my eyes      time passed,the prostitutes sang songs every day, and by the time they were      twenty-three,twenty-four, cigarettes had stained them yellowand every night by eleven I caught the bus for homeand time passed      during the half hour the girls at the sewing      factory ate lunchthe clothes irons stood cooling, and every half hour, in every      wedding hall, [End Page 64] there was another bride and groom      time passed      in an infant's      fadedhundredth-day photo, in a public graveyard for Chinese      immigrants, in a cheap restaurant,on a road where rainwater puddled, on leaves      time passed on a      street busywith traffic a child pedaled along on a tricyclesome people were to be pitied, some who saw themwept      nothing could come backfrom the asphyxiating malodorous dizzying hole


my heart aches whenever I hear the word "time"I was brought up as a treasured child, and nothing significant      happenedto me other than my encountering in my path a few stones that I      got easily past-middle school,high school, the difficult period of learning, and then lust, and a      desire to be heroic,and feelings of shame though there's nothing I need to forget,time rises like a fog, like drunkennesshow      is      it      that      the      field      grows      so      wideandhowisitthattherearesomanyredflowerswaveringonthehorizon?

that year snow fell often and the road turned quickly muddy I was night      I was on a train with you, passing a bare mountain

the train from time to time stopped, something white flickered, and the train moved on again . . . time passed

this also might have happened [End Page 65] when I turned round and sank into the rolling darknessstamping the ground              you began to break apart not a sound                          was heard

(I loved you I was the two-p'yŏng room you were sleeping in several dolls with the same face sat next to each other and a bell tolled in the church inside a framed picture...