Five Poems by Lee Jangwook
Everything had already been delivered.Such was the elderly postmen's conclusion,
just as I had already heard all your wordsbefore you opened your mouth to speak.
Plants that had become the same season,clerks counting lonely banknotes,lovers poisoned by distant confessions,at that moment
someone rang a cloud's doorbell.He is delivering hot hands and feet.To just that seasonwherever it is if that is where we are.
Just one reply will arrive.In a slightly crueler way. [End Page 207]
A Consistent Life
After being born I gained consistency. I didn't know what it was,whether the location of eyes, nose, mouth, or somethinglike the direction of the back of my head,or my expression while waiting for you.
I ate regularly. I phoned using the same voice. I fell into the same sorrows. My voice broke, and yet
I am a murderer and at the same timeto my neighbors I am someone extremely polite and sincere. Such is social virtue,attending weddings courteously wearing a tie,then once drunk smashing the glasses.
I liked the way the roadside trees on my way to work were always standing there. I profoundly understood the night in the alleys cats frequented. Things appearing then disappearing became very consistent.
Today as everI come a bit closer to dead people.Ever since I was a child I disliked dictators and mystics.As for me, there was a person I liked madlybut now. …
One day I will stop taking your phone calls.After making a racket in a bar I'll grow gloomy.After livingthen I won't be living. [End Page 208]
Still, I was putting on yesterday's clothesand making today's outings.I kept recalling somethingabout deceitful life. [End Page 209]
I tried to love the world at a standstill.The world that does not suspect itself.I moved ever farther from waterand gained a very sturdy silence.
Until everything can be seen to the very endinside myself.Things gradually growing transparentout there.
Is it either a tightly clenched fist,or perhaps something like an empty palm?It's aimed at the ground like a long, pointed icicleor it could cover everything like a blizzardbut it's not rock-paper-scissors.It's not a vow, either.
It is like a tree that makes an unexpected season inside it.It is like the thought thatthis morning is possible, not being eternity,resembling the incomprehensibly changing surface of water.
Gradually melting, someonemurmured:Ah,it's winter.It is faint. [End Page 210]
Book of My Life
It was the book in which my life was inscribed. Perhaps I bought it somewhere,or someone gave it as a gift,or did I take it out of the postbox in my dreams?
Having seen my tomorrow was already written, I followedand livedAnd worked.And finally I grew lonely, so
every night I made an index. Having crossed gone over all the nouns, verbs, adverbs in order,one by one, I met you who had been already aged,and talked about ancient, obscure phrases for a long time.
The reason why we couldn't decipher themwas because it kept on snowing,because too many letters were piled up in the air.
I called it hell that things you signified kept expanding without limit. I called it YOU, a thing like a black book-cover having been overwritten by tens of thousands of people.Beyond your expressions,your jokes,strange dreams of you staring at me. [End Page 211]
Every time I opened a page something shut. There was something not emerging from any phrase. You became so complete that not one postposition could be added butwithout a snowy night in the contents,no title,the conclusion having vanished.
I was standing alone on the bookshelf. Perhaps someone had put me in an alley,or discarded me in a dream postbox,one single snowflake fell then stopped onjustone sentence. [End Page 212]
Putting on Shoes
I once had things like a hand held up to shade my eyes from the sunand the sunlight that settled on the back of my hand then vanished.
After putting a finger in the back of my shoes before slipping them onthen tapping the toes smartly on the floor,thinking:they're on properly.
There's still something inside the shoes.Something that keeps growing bigger.Moving along with me,not me,poke, poke,piercing the whole world.
Is it a sharp stone? It must be a dead friend, or enemy, oris it something I said.We walked along together.It was once a foreign substanceand then it was my masterand then it turned into a chilly life.
Anyhow I slept well, walked well, met strangers well, then finallyI lifted my finger and pointed somewhere. A destination? An old love? Maybe today's appointment, or the exact time of death,maybe,the place just a step away. [End Page 213]
I walked in that direction.But why are you limping?In the street, someone came and asked.His eyes, nose, and mouthwere invisible. [End Page 214]
Eun-Gwi Chung is a professor in the Department of English Literature and Culture at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. Her publications include articles, translations, poems, and reviews in various journals including World Literature Today, Cordite, and Azalea, among others. Her recent poetry publications are Fifteen Seconds without Sorrow and Ah, Mouthless Things.