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  • One Breath, and: Extreme Emptiness, and: Silent Word, and: Bare Foot, and: At a River Village at Dusk
  • Moon Tae-jun (bio)
    Translated by Chae-Pyong Song (bio) and Darcy L. Brandel (bio)

One Breath

The space between flowers blooming and fallingWe might call it a breathThe tree's cry makes flowers bloomWith another cry flowers fallThe space between blooming and fallingWe might call it a breathEven trees have lungs spread like flatlandsOne breath and an ebb tide flows in and outOne breath and trees shake once in the windFather completes one sixty-year cycle, a life like the measlesWe might call it a breath [End Page 247]

Extreme Emptiness

I planted young radishesbut being lazy I missed the roots and stems emergingI barely caught the flowerswhite radish flowers were everywhere in the spaceDid you plant the flower garden in the vegetable garden?Neighbors asked and I hesitated to answerAfter this conversation, one butterflyand another butterfly along with the firsta flock of butterflies like white radish flowerslanded on white radish flowerssetting down their fragile feetbriefly for three or five seconds orperhaps an even longer time to themfolding their wings, calming the windsitting comfortablythey seemed to sleep a light sleepThis place I gave away so they could set their feetthis knee I gave away so they could sleep a light sleepI did not have such a place while livingThough my radish garden is a flower gardenat last, I lost even the flowers to the butterflies [End Page 248]

Silent Word

In the temple yard peonies bloom luxuriouslyWho opens the flowers' doors?

With a silent word, the flowers open their petals

The moment I attempt to say,"opening petals swept by rain all morning," my tongue is cut off by

the rain [End Page 249]

Bare Foot

A clam at the fish store pushes a bare foot outside its mud hutsticking out its bare footthe way the dead Buddha reaches out for the disciple who cries sorrowfullyImmersed long in flatland and water the foot has wrinkled upWhen I touch its bare foot with reverence the clamslowly withdraws as if having the first thought, as if having the longest thoughtAt that speed even time, even the road might have flownAnyone might have gone out or, separated, might have come back slowly like thatAlways barefoot I guessAs the bird having lost its love endures the night with beak buried into chestso might the clam have endured sorrow with foot buried into chestWhen the house cried for foodhe might have gone out to beg barefoot, blisteredAfter all day in the streetperhaps he returned to the hut reeking with povertythe house content, full of foodits crying stopped, quiet as darkness [End Page 250]

At a River Village at Dusk

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimesSorrow moves like a mountain shadow across your eyes

A bird cries like an echo in a glazed pot but the river, a bigger pot, contains her

In the distance between you and mebetween the darkness of this place and that of the village beyondthe river like a big round wheel flows

A cow cries at the village across the riverI cannot help the cow whose cries dampen the cold river with drizzlePerhaps she just lost her baby or her loveI cannot help the cow who cries till her voice gets hoarseI cannot forget the crying cow's white round eyes

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimes [End Page 251]

Moon Tae-jun

Moon Tae-jun, born in 1970 in Kimch'ŏn, is one of the most popular poets of his generation and is particulary well-known for deceptively simple, still poems dealing with nature, childhood, and frail lives on the boundary between life and death. He published four poetry collections.

He is a receipient of many literary awards, including Midang Literary Award (2005) and Sowol Poetry Award (2006...


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