Roommate, Woman

Translated by Jae Kim

On waking, I see my body has been rearranged. I’m reminded of the tongue you, having cried so much, dropped under the cypress tree. From then on, you began to speak with your left hand. One of my eyes, stuck to my thigh, closed and opened toward the obsolete picture. When your ovary, full of blood, keeps moving down, you open the window. A whistle sounds. The police touches the face of the rat the cat never finished. There behind your back is my pain, isolated from my knees. You knew the house would be rearranged when we woke up—I hold your hand. While we watch the pale clouds, sitting on leaking fuel tanks, our joined hands slip out the door. You pick up one of my eyes worming under your foot. It may snow. Snow (not an eye) like the bandage around my hand, smeared in crimson light.

 


동거녀

깨어나면 몸의 구조가 바뀌어 있어. 네가 사이프러스 나무밑에서 너무 많이 울어 떨어뜨리고 온 혓바닥이 생각나. 그때부터 너는 왼손으로 말하기 시작했어. 내 눈 하나는 허벅지에 붙어 사라진 장면을 향해 감았다 떴지. 피로 가득 찬 자궁이 자꾸만 아래로 내려갈 때 너는 창문을 연다. 호루라기 소리가 들려. 경찰은 고양이가 먹다 남긴 쥐의 얼굴을 만지네. 네 등 뒤에는 무릎뼈에서 떨어져 나간 통증. 깨어나면 집의 구조가 바뀐다는 걸 알고 있던 너의 손을 잡는다. 가스가 조금씩 새는 가스통 위에서 창백한 구름을 보는 동안 우리가 맞잡은 손이 방문 밖으로 빠져나간다. 너는 발바닥에서 꿈틀거리는 내 눈 하나를 줍고있구나. 눈(雪)이 올 것 같아. 손에 감은 붕대처럼 붉은빛이 스민 눈이.

More by Lee Young-ju

Pillow

Translated by Jae Kim
 

     Down in this sewer, have I become my friend? By the manmade waters where my school principal killed himself, geese cried. On the other side of the barbed-wire fence is a large cloudchimney. I put on a straw hat I picked up in the gutters.

     When the clouds bent over, the geese cackled their beaks wide-open. The cry of the machine as it pushed the clouds through the conveyor into the chimney. Where are the better suicides?

     My father built his house on the waters’ edge, and every day he packed the clouds in, spun the machine. Those who wanted to sleep bought Father’s pillow. All night, eyes peeled, I bent my body and straightened my body, over and over. Each time my bones popped, snapped, I escaped through the chimney. I thought about what kind of crying to do.

     Near sundown, I urged him, let’s go where there’s a crowd, but in the machine the geese were bleeding. For a good night’s sleep we need wet feathers, said Father. I sucked on my lips while counting the tags on the pillows. I believe the essence of those who died better deaths must go to the sewer, where innumerable sleeps flow.

     When spinning the cotton machinery, I wore my hat. White feathers rose from the waters where those who killed themselves lay facedown. I took my hand, stepped on the feathers and went to school in the mornings. Waddling, I forged ahead.


베개

     이 하수도에서 나는 나의 친구가 된 것일까. 교장 선생님이 자살한 개천가에서 거위들이 울었다. 철조망 밖에는 커다란 구름 굴뚝. 나는 하수도 밑에서 주운 맥고모자를 썼다.

     구름이 몸을 굽혔을 때 거위들은 썩썩 부리를 벌렸다. 열을 맞춰 구름을 굴뚝 안으로 밀어 넣는 기계 울음소리. 왜 더 나은 자살은 보이지 않는 것일까?

     아버지는 천변 끝에 집을 지었는데 매일매일 구름을 기계 안에 넣고 돌렸다. 잠들고 싶은 자들은 아버지의 베개를 사 갔다. 나는 밤새도록 눈을 부릅뜨고 몸을 굽혔다 폈다. 뼈들이 덜그럭거릴 때마다 도망쳐서 굴뚝까지 올라갔다. 어떤 울음소리를 내야 할지 생각했다.

     저물녘이 되면 많은 사람이 있는 곳으로 가자고 재촉했지만 기계 안에서 거위들이 피를 흘리고 있었다. 깊은 잠을 위해 촉촉한 깃털을 넣어야 한다는 아버지. 나는 베개 라벨지 숫자를 세며 입술을 빨았다. 아무래도 더 좋게 죽은 자들의 기운은 수많은 잠이 흘러가는 하수도로 가야 한다.

     솜틀 기계를 돌릴 때에는 모자를 썼다. 자살한 자들이 엎드린 개천에서 흰 깃털이 날아올랐다. 나는 내 손을 잡고 깃털을 밟으면서 아침마다 학교에 갔다. 뒤뚱거리며 계속해서 앞으로 나아갔다.

Related Poems

Demolition Derby

                  Sonya's so good that all the guys 
pick on her, so the evening's narrative goes. I've heard she wears 
yellow t-shirts each time to match her hair. Last time her tennis 
shoes got so dusty that she had to throw them out because there 
was no way on earth that they could be white again. 
                  Trunks shrink like deflated accor-
dions, like melodramatic arguments after they've met face to 
face with someone's indifference. A baby cries and pouts 
while her mother is trying to scoop more Velveta on to her 
nacho. The father is strung out on something, someone in 
back of us says. A teenager with severe acne turns around 
and fires a dart full of cavities into my gaze. We give in to the 
pleasure of destruction for the sheer sake of waste. What 
inside, the collision, the jerk on the nape that makes the 
driver wonder whether this one's it. Swallow me dust while 
the crowd cheers and claps its French fries away into the 
space between a nearby neon and the floodlights gathering 
an army of many sized moths.

Black Snow [I came home]

I came home
from my mother’s funeral

to a house of my own making

to dust I didn’t want
to lift from a shelf

I came home astonished
by life being the same

struck dumb
when the knife
sunk into the melon.

Tiananmen: The Aftermath

There was blood and guts all over the road.
I said I’m sorry, darling, and rolled over,
expecting the slate to be clean; but she came,
she who was never alive became resurrected.
I saw her in a dream…a young girl in a qipao,
Bespectacled, forever lingering, thriving
on the other side of the world, walking in my soles
as I walked, crying in my voice as I cried. When
she arrived, I felt my knuckles in her knock,
her light looming over the city’s great hollows.

Hope lies within another country’s semaphores.
The Goddess of Liberty, the Statue of Mercy—
we have it all wrong—big boy, how we choose to love,
how we choose to destroy, says Zhuangzi, is written
in heaven—but leave the innocent ones alone,
those alive, yet stillborn, undead, yet waiting
in a fitful sleep undeserved of an awakening.