[Web Exclusive] A Poetry Reading by Poet Kim Haengsook "Underground Traveler 2084"

  • onSeptember 2, 2019
  • byKorean Literature Now


Underground Traveler 2084


1. Night light and day light pour out of the same place.


I’ve almost become the underground. The underground is a worn-out world. As I wander around for a hundred years watching the new world wear down, my body turns into mold spores that aspirate into the air. My body becomes humidity and chill . . . becomes like ambience, a feeling, or a mood: something hard to express in words. People walk around like machines. Arrows float before their eyes like bright baby goldfish.

I become the rails, a flame, darkness, a train, stairways, a station attendant, lockers, Mozart, Vivaldi. I’m retro. Some things past are bound to return. “I’m looking for a missing child. A six-year-old girl. She was wearing a baby blue dress and white tights. Her clothes and face must be dirty like some beggar. And since ninety years have passed . . .” I’m the clipped shadow of that six-year-old girl. If her shadow remains, she can come back. “This is a bad dream!” you scream as you rub the white face you found inside black hair.


2. And day darkness and night darkness are homogenous.


We took shelter in the subway from storms and blizzards. We went down into the deepest darkness and imagined life after Earth’s destruction. What we imagined became reality. The reality of an underground traveler. Traveling happens between reality and dreams, between life and death. If nine people are alive then one is dead, and if nine people are visible, one can’t be seen. That’s how it goes. “This must be a bad dream,” you mumble as you rub the black face you found inside white hair. But don’t you think that sometimes one person is alive and nine are dead, and one person is visible and nine can’t be seen?

Are you an alive person? I’m not sure. For every one thing I know there are nine things I don’t. That’s how it goes. Making an immortal itinerary, I wander every metro in the world in this infinite accommodation. As soon as I think I know who those countless organisms lined up on the underground platforms are, I realize I don’t. But then again, I can see through them. After a bomb strapped to the chest of a man exploded, my world collapsed. Every person became everybody’s night.


translated by Jake Levin and Soo-hyun Yang