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  • Two Poems
  • Li Chong-dŏk (bio)
    Translated by Chae-Pyong Song (bio)

If I Truly Meet Mother Unexpectedly

TrulyWhen the day comes, the unification comes,If I meet MotherUnexpectedly

Ah, ah, so choked up,I would forget all the words that I etched for many decades,The bursting sound—of the heart and the soul—Resonates only with "Omma" [Mamma].

The voice to which I ran, as if falling on my face, to be embracedEven when she came back late from the market;The voice to which I played the babyWhen we met again even after one day's separation.

The mother who left me, sayingShe would be back after three nights' stay at grandma's,The three nights—during which I waited so long—passed bythousand and ten thousand times, and I am waiting still. . . . [End Page 163]

She must be over seventy, all gray-haired,Yet in my memoriesShe has all black hair, neatly parted,Gleaming with castor oil

Mother, Mother,I cannot age another day without meeting Mother.You, Mother, cannot close your eyesTill you see this son.

Love melts iron, they say.Not just love between this son and Mother but,If all the nation's love unites,Can it topple this concrete dividing wall?

On the Unification Street of a construction siteWhere one more story has risen again,With a new dayI resolutely engrave this into my heart.

If I meet Mother this time,I will forget all the ages and times,Go back to the moment we became separated,And, a child again, I will be embraced by the folds of her skirt.

Truly, when the day of unification comes,Like a dammed stream burst open,The sound of our race and our nation unifiedWill shake all of the peninsula, three thousand li long.

Oh, oh, the cry for unification, hotter than the subterranean heat,Neither on earth, nor in heaven, but within my heart,Will burst into "Ŏmma"And shake up the whole earth. [End Page 164]


On a green rice field footpathAs if strewn aboutDandelions bloom in yellowHow lovely they are!

I pluck one blossom and put it to my mouthIt reminds meOf the spring aroma ofthe lunch Mother carried out when I was young

On an evening walk back home from schoolWhen I blew them hoooo on the palmYour seeds scattered like parachutesIn the end, they rooted in the hometown fields.

Ah, dandelions, dandelionsAlso bloom in my heart of love and destiny;The lovely flowers of my hometownRooted in this soil! [End Page 165]

Li Chong-dŏk

Li Chong-dŏk is a North Korean poet known for the lyrical poetic style that flourished in the 1990s. "Dandelions," published in 1994, is a good example.

Chae-Pyong Song

Chae-Pyong Song is an associate professor of English at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. He has published articles on modern fiction, as well as translations of Korean poetry and fiction, and coordinates the Master of Arts in English program.