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magpies waiting for redevelopment

Having a pee in the fourth-floor washroom of a commercial building in Guro market, I see a magpie through the window, sitting on a telephone pole.

Intending to build a nest, the bird holds a twig in its beak, testing one angle, then another. Like a careful carpenter it considers one factor and then another.

The dried twig twists precariously in the wind, as if saying: Not here. Securing the twig in its beak, the bird flies on through the forest of concrete apartments.

Ah, bird! Why is it so difficult for us to find a house— even one in the sky?

lyrics, too, have class structures

Once I thought my chest held a garden larger than a laborer’s lodging. I thought of it as brighter than a room at a pub, calmer than a workshop throbbing with the sound of generators. [End Page 29]

Carpenters, painters, laborers, lowlife, lower life, I welcomed them all inside me. Living with those rootless lives inside my own breast, I was excited as the owner of a room for rent.

However, looking back after many years, I see I spoiled that place of an endless spring of lyrics singing by filling it with difficult books, science, and reason.

When tipsy sunset lay sprawled across golden meadows, unable to stand, and nobody woke him those warm summer days— ah, my poor lyrics!

winter that year at dotgot

In the winter of that year, I buried love at Dotgot. As a cold, rusty wind came blowing over the dyke   of the reclaimed land, I clung tightly to a steel I-beam like a ledge of ice tens of meters in the air, crawled on all fours to keep from falling to my death, and buried your memory. Huddling around a bonfire eating frigid snacks, stomping loudly up iron stairs, making a racket for no reason. I saw my fellow workers lose limbs crushed by steel girders,   lose eyes to grinder blades, and fall from great heights, and it banished, from deep inside me, the longing for your body.

On days off, I would hang out in poolrooms near the construction site or sit in a coffee shop in a far-off town, searching for traces of you. When we met, I was a poor apprentice welder and you were a penniless   café waitress. I wonder where we lost the sweet love that we had.

I hammered full of fury the hot welding rod that splintered flames in my heart . . . When night fell over the 500-acre worksite of reclaimed land, the men would wait in line to use the canteen’s single phone booth, shaking the coins in their pockets and shivering in the cold. [End Page 30]

But because I didn’t have the heart to call you I would wear myself out walking to the distant wharf, then return iced over like a snowman. Men were laid off, wages were cut. In the dorms, the workers began to whisper: We should stage a slowdown, go out on strike. But such actions   were futile.

As I stood at the iron railing, twenty stories high, calling your name, how far my voice carried I don’t know. Where did we lose the innocent love we had?

beyond the border

I am not my own thing.

Today I ate rice from Pyongtaek, garlic from Seosan, grapes from Yeon-dong, tofu made in China, and mackerel from Chile.

My bones, flesh, blood, organs, and thoughts in fact have their roots in different places.

It is morally wrong for me, being such a borderless thing, to be obsessed with a single idea. It’s also unreasonable to insist that change must happen only in a certain way.

Harsh like sunlight, then cool like mist, then piled up like mountains, then endlessly expansive like the sea, like plains, every manner of being is inside me.

Thinking that...


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pp. 29-33
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