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  • Oh, Bartleby, and: Shadow, and: The Pit, and: Opposites, and: A Blanket’s Insomnia, and: The River and I
  • Kim So Yeon
    Translated by Chung Eun-Gwi (bio) and Brother Anthony of Taizé (bio)

oh, bartleby

The old vow of let’s live well until fortunately all become unfortunate is in full bloom in the ground’s soil. The last day of April is odd when an additional half day is added. It’s a spring day when butterflies that once wished to fly all become impartially unfortunate, fold their wings, and wait for death. Just look at them: marigolds, poppies, even daisies, all, no-no, shaking their heads, enduring a single day, until all become beautifully unfortunate, until all become tearfully unfortunate. Butterflies are the record keepers for flowers. A spring breeze forms from the sighs of all living things breathing out together. A day moon hangs in the sky like a white hole, the rim of the hole is more benign. It is an odd day, arriving with an additional half day. The petals are cold, like artificial flowers, holding firmly to their stalks and determined not to wither until, united, all have become unfortunate. The setting sun clenches its teeth until all has become absolutely perfectly unfortunate.


Cherry trees open their thousand eyes with neither pupils nor eyelids

On the way to the laundry to have a coat cleaned and crowds thronging to church and Sunday and a snow sled

The cherries will soon ripen and fall my mouth is already watering [End Page 24] Hanging out in an alley like a spider seated in an abandoned chair no departure no arrival

Naked sunlight naked iron gates seated in the shade I dry my wet knees neither thawing nor freezing

Without a single arctic fox, sea elephant, seal, white rainbow, white cloud, or fog and no icebreaker no strait

The cherries will lie beside a stone for a while. Ants will lick them no tongue no love.

the pit

The small pine cone lying on the windowsill opens more fully each day, its scales unfolding. Nothing at all happens to the cicada husk lying beside it.

Meanwhile, for many days I fell asleep as an insect, woke as a human, fell asleep as a human, woke as a plant, fell asleep as a plant, woke as a thing. As I have been alone for so long, time grows plump. I walk only one step a day, the date line is coiled like a tendril round my ankle, I look perplexed.

A shadow approaching over the hedge like a grass snake. A shadow coiling itself round a cool pot. A shadow like a crow disappearing after removing the bones from sunlight.

Each shadow begins to look like a pit. [End Page 25]

On the windowsill, a pair of washed sneakers lies crumpled like insects. Next morning,   awakening by themselves, they will look happy as if just back from meeting the dead.


I am engrossed in looking for ways to live like a cup. A cup has no opposite, we merely turn it upside down after washing it.

There is no need to know the opposite of hat, we merely go out wearing a hat. Although I sometimes wonder if anyone wears a hat at home.

Eyes, hands, lips, your description of yourself do not have opposites. Wretched adverbs such as eventually, finally, ultimately also have   no opposites.

When people call me an adult, when they call me a woman, I just have to firmly suppress the opposite that surges up like a seesaw.

When people call me a poet my opposites are useless.

In the city, when I began to recognize the opposite of suburbs, I wondered where the suburbs of the earth might be, turning the globe round and round.

Now I have almost perfected the way to live like a cup.

The postbox lets drop an opposite. I drop a cup. The opposite of completeness shatters. [End Page 26]

a blanket’s insomnia

You are exactly like someone falling asleep in order to give a blanket   a bed for the night.

Held in your arms, the green blanket lightly tosses and turns.

Like someone...


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pp. 24-28
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