Chewing Gum: Six poems by Kim Ki-taek

My Eyes Met His

 

 

My eyes met his for a moment.

His face was familiar,

But I couldn’t remember who he was.

Bewildered by the odd familiarity of unfamiliarity

I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

He, too, seemed to ponder who I was.

He was rummaging through a garbage bag.

He was inside the skin of a cat.

As if he were used to standing upright,

To walk with four feet appeared awkward.

As if complaining to me, who had disturbed his ransacking,

Meow, he let out with feeling.

But unexpectedly the strange sound like a baby crying

Seemed unbearable even for his own ears,

And he immediately shut his mouth.

He didn’t run away like other cats.

As if angry over his own sad figure being caught,

He lowered his head, turning slowly, back arched,

And moved off into the distance for a long time.

 

 

 

 

Samgyeopsal*

 

 

On my way home after a drinking party

For over an hour

The smell of the meat has been lingering on my body.

My pores, my wrinkles, my fingerprints

Are full of the blood cooked by fire, the flesh turned into smoke.

The savory fragrance I tasted hastily, being hungry

Has gone away;

Onl y the strong stench of meat right before slaughter has survived,

Blocking up my nostrils like cotton balls.

With a smell of meat like the halo of a saint

I get off the subway.

In the spot where I was standing on the subway

A mould in the shape of my body covered with the smell of meat

Is still holding onto the train strap, looking out the window

At me, who is leaving up the station steps.

When I arrive at ground level,

A refreshing breeze sends away the smell of meat.

While I take in the cool air deeply,

The smell of meat briefly flies up like a swarm of flies

And attaches its sticky feet to my body.

It keeps holding onto my hands, which sizzled its body at the table,

And my teeth, which gnashed its body.

The blood-rank smell which still holds a scream and its death throes

Keeps permeating my body

In which a carcass is buried.

 

 

* Koreanstyle grilled pork belly

 

 

 

 

Killing a Cat

 

 

An object, black like a shadow, without the sound of walking

Dashed abruptly into the street.

I stepped on the brakes,

But the speed forged on ahead.

My car didn’t rattle in the slightest, even less than if going over a tiny stone,

But something soft seemed to permeate the tires.

I promptly looked in the side mirror, and found something that looked like a comforter

Dropped in the middle of the street.

What ate up all the wild animals from long ago

Was neither the teeth nor claws of tigers or lions,

But tires, soft as gum, which the little cat had no idea about.

The buffer of car tires, comfortable to drive in

Swallowed something mushy; crushed it, without a sign.

The texture of tender meat like the beef ribs of a well-known steakhouse,

So tender that it would melt in anybody’s mouth without even chewing

Rushed instantaneously into my body through the tires.

Death that had ...

Kim Ki-taek serves as a professor of creative writing at Kyung Hee Cyber University. His poems have been translated into Japanese and Spanish. He has received the Kim Su-Young Literary Award, the Hyundae Literary Award, and the Midang Literary Award.