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POETRY

Self-Portrait

  • onDecember 17, 2015
  • Vol.30 Winter 2015
  • bySeo Jeong-ju
The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry
Tr. David R. McCann
2004
269pp.

 

Father was a serf;
he never came home, even late at night.
The only things standing there were grandmother, withered
and pale as the roots of a leek,
and one flowering date tree.
For a month, mother longed for green apricots, even one.
By the oil lamp set in the dirt wall’s niche,
I was mother’s boy, with black fingernails.
With my large eyes and thick hair
I am said to take after grandfather on my mother’s side,
who went off to sea, the story goes, sometime
during the year of reforms, and never returned.
 
For twenty-three years it is the wind that has raised four-fifths of me.
Life has become more and more an embarrassment.
Some read a convict in my eyes,
some an idiot in my mouth,
but I will repent nothing.
 
On such mornings, at the magnificent dawn,
drops of blood mingle with the dew
of poetry settled on my forehead.
For I have come, tongue hanging out,
panting through sun and shade like a sick dog.