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  • Five Poems
  • Kim Un
    Translated by Krys Lee (bio)

On the Snake

It doesn’t seem that we’ll reveal anything. It appears we have the same particular fantasy. About the tongue.   About the street the tongue licked clean. It seems we should   come to the same conclusion about a snake that’s all gloss. The   moment the tongue moves

Words pass. Toward air, we cock our ears and music passes. Though I floundered in the air,   we talked again about our expressions after we listened several   times and knew it was music.

From moment to moment we speak bleakly. About the tongue. About music and screaming, we speak with a forked tongue. When   we wake up, all day long we disguise ourselves with the snake’s   brothers that lie in a heap near our heads. When we’re scared,   we have the habit of covering ourselves with hats. Our hair takes   off its skin and sneaks out. The snake sticks out two-forked and   three-forked tongues, and gets away. To try and take off its hat. [End Page 83] Music passes. Though I fell in the air and floundered, you wear all   the expressions of someone trying to put on the hat. It doesn’t   seem we’ll reveal anything. About the snake.

I have briefly depicted the tongue. [End Page 84]


You wait anxiously. I go to meet you but I don’t know where one of my feet is walking. Do you know who one of your hands is greeting?

Bumping someone’s shoulder then bumping it again, My feet strut to their inner world. If these feet look unfamiliar, watch my walk. Is the final destination of this stride, with everything below my knees entirely omitted, your house,

or beyond?

A person’s hand is waiting. While I press the doorbell, there is the sudden sound of your moving feet. I open the door

and we hold each other from behind. In front of me I hear your faraway sounds. From over your back, my feet have just arrived. Immediately I take off your clothes.

The too small world of the hands and feet rest at last, lying down on another bed. [End Page 85]

Helen, What Do You Hear?

The sound of sirens passes. I tap her fingers. What do you hear? I hear it near my head.

I mimic a baritone sound. I tap her fingers. What do you hear? I hear it near my ankle.

I wave a leaf I picked up from a park. What do you hear? It seems like an empty space has formed nearby. If you tickle me a little more, soon it will be the time for the kittens to wake up.

Soon after, a truck passes. What do you hear? The smell of sweat rises to the top of my head. What is happening on the other side of the globe? I hear hundreds of combat boots or the smell of hundreds of people hating. It just arrived at my belly button right now.

Next door, I hear nails being pounded in. What do you hear? I often sneak looks at a scene where someone’s waking up. Behind a window that stays fogged no matter how I clean it, A man casts glances at me. If he just beams, I continue to hear my sweat-soaked dream from age nine onwards. [End Page 86]

Don’t resist, don’t resist, my fiancée—

Don’t be surprised. I am only breathing. What do you hear? A pair of shoes in the cabinet said, I have never seized my feet before. I mean the sound of ankles fleeing. Don’t misunderstand. Until now, I didn’t say anything. What do you hear? Why does the solitary caterpillar keep slipping? Though it is most certainly green, It is yellowish, multicolored, and looking for a time to leave itself.

Why do you hear? You can’t hear or see Or even speak, so why do you express yourself? I think only about the departing mother bird’s stiff beak holding a caterpillar. Are there babies in the bird’s belly as it sits on the nest it...


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pp. 83-91
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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