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  • Two Poems
  • Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (bio)
    Translated by K.E. Duffin (bio)

Extreme east, Extreme west (an historico-dream poem)

At an altitude of 12,000 metersat 870 miles an hourwith a headwind of 40 km/hin four hours' timeI pass over the ice bridge,the white lakes, the foreststhe tundratherewhere they crossedfor thousands of yearsaround twenty-six million years ago(during the Würm glaciation)menwomensmall childrenold women, old menwho discovered the new world [End Page 69] In springwhen the buttercups were bloomingand when the shrubs were filling with berriesthey would resume their trek in the direction of the rising sunEach morning, folding sorghum stalkssecuring provisions of smoked beef in baskets of dry leaves,carrying the eternal ember enclosed in its nest of willowand flints strapped to the backs of old menInfants were whimpering in their cradles of reindeer skinMist was stretching its cottony expanses through the valleysA cold wind was blowing across the grasslandsWater was streaming over mossy rocksDogs were yapping, eager to greet the dawnor grieving one of their own torn apart by wolves in the nightWomen, womenarmed with lances and atlatl, with axes,running through forests of quaking aspenall the way to the deer bedded down on the riverbank awaitingdeathMen armed with spears chasing the bearand the stag Elaphus with antlers in the shape of a fanIn the evening, they would find a clearing, a hillthey would sleep huddled together under their tents sewn withsinewsPerhaps they would singA grandmother would tell the children stories so they would sleepA woman would dance, turning, her long robe shaped like a hut,her hair plaited with shells spilling over her shoulders.Her piercing voice would summon the spirits of the dead,or open the way for infants to come into this worldWomen would give birth by the riverbank,holding the hands of midwivesthen get up and begin walking againWith them they were carrying the past [End Page 70] Yon the dragon who changed nameswho was called Mixcoatl, the serpent of clouds,Kukulcan, the bird-serpentWith them, the four colors, the white of the north, the yellow of thesouth, the black of the west, the red of the east, and at the centre,OK, the color of jadeToday, the bridge is forgottenThe plane flies over the path of exile at 12,000 metersAmerica is another continentThose who come up with east and westdo not know they have confused the direction of the journeyPerhaps they do not know how to read the tranquillity of facesOver there, in New Mexico,before leaving, the day before my plane trip,in the parking lot of K-MartI saw the car of a Navaho Indianand above the license platewas written"I remember Korea" [End Page 71]

Unjusa, Autumn Rain

Lying beneath a fine mist of fresh watermeditative sleepers with dreamy eyesturned toward the skyThey say there used to be three, and one of them got upwalked to the edge of the cliffThe two Buddhas still have their backs joined to the stoneone day they will rise in turnand a new world will be bornOn the streets of Seoul,young men, young womendisrupt time, grasping at secondsBuying, sellingCreating, inventing, seekingWho still thinks of the two Buddhasdreaming on the mountain [End Page 72] at UnjusaPillar of cloudsrising in the midst of red autumn leaves?

Seeking, runningSeizing, carrying offThe stone Buddhaswith the faces of Loaswith the vision of shamansdo they sometimes dream in their sleeplessnessof the great stores of the Dongdaemun marketof neon letters as numerousas the branches of the forest?

On the other side of the worldon the other side of the seaa shattered country [End Page 73]

a blind countryclawed by fear

Buying, sellingseeingforetellingzigzagging the nightwhen Seoul is lit up...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6500
Print ISSN
1939-6120
Pages
pp. 69-77
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-22
Open Access
No
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