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  • Five Poems
  • Sin Yongmok (bio)
    Translated by Eun-Gwi Chung (bio) and Brother Anthony of Taizé (bio)

Inside the Glass Door of the Sŏngnae-dong Clothing Repairs

In an alley bent like a carp’s backbone, the sunlight, too, is bent. Time, a hunchback too, has a hard time going far, so between galvanized iron walls sits a sewing shop with a low glass door. At nightfall when earth’s tilt coils the sunlight sometimes girls glanced at it from a distance but only saw their white faces printed there, reflected off the dark behind the glass, and no one walking up the alley after turning into a sheet of paper ever wondered what lay inside the glass door. Sometimes to hem the legs of newly bought trousers, someone pulls at the door handle resembling the cover of a fairy    tale book, but the old wife’s not there just the husband spitting out a bit of thread, who greets briefly with amphibian eyes, and if someone shows the desired length of the trousers with thumb and forefinger, [End Page 143] pretends not to understand, just vibrates his gills, then soon, as if to train someone’s needle’s eye in biting begins a backstitch that looks like an ellipsis. There is a wave inside the glass door that suspects no one coming out after checking the needle rake, which, forever straight, becomes even finer on the two fins lying on the sewing machine. Threads buoyantly float about and a carp that lives on thread is hidden there. Sometimes a newspaper comes flying and knocks at the door but the door does not open. If it allows time in too often the carp’s scales will grow dry, so the glass obstinately clamps shut its dentures and hangs on. Next to the bent alley, there’s a sewing shop. Since all the people of Sŏngnae-dong had become thin as paper, no one peeped through its glass door, but they could not avoid having their footsteps bent whenever they passed the store the way a fluorescent tube is bent in a fish tank. [End Page 144]

The Apartment Dweller

In a thousand years’ time, this will be a sacred shrine. Apartment. To be allowed to lie down in these magnificent remains, he endured hard labor and painful contempt— my descendant may read that on a board in front of the janitor’s lodge. The management office where I went down to pay the maintenance fee, clasping my remains that would later be pictured in the guidebook. The Roman catacombs where the faithful sleep layer upon layer; like photos hanging after devoutly taking over the throne. One    morning, sitting on the toilet, I thought of the apartment residents who must all be doing their business dangling their hands a few meters up and down or apart. Sun powder being sprinkled like the blessings of persecution, the cloven foot of a camel setting off across a stony desert, a woman’s face like a dry tongue, children chewing grains of sand, in the catacombs where all of them live with their share of destruction in each body, each room, night comes. Between one cloud and another, a banquet is being served and sheets of time transforming earnestness into holiness hang beautifully in every window. If an era ends like this, I will be a martyr. [End Page 145]

The Birds’ Peru

There’s no roof on the bird’s nest. The solitude, as it buries its beak under a wing and withstands storms, and the stillness of feathers soaked then drying must have nurtured its wings, then

an instant comes bearing fate on its back. At the heart of the city, the wind’s upper and lower jaws are clamped unremittingly on a black plastic bag as it suddenly goes soaring up, marked with signs of tooth decay

the air’s black target, its center open everywhere.

The whirlwind circles the nest, and the solitude has ripened into horn

so as it aims just one blow at the sky.

birds wheel in search of a weak spot.

Reveal the bright air’s dark windpipe! If I can attack that spot...


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pp. 143-149
Launched on MUSE
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