In Praise of Thunder

  • onNovember 10, 2014
  • Vol.10 Winter 2010
  • byChong Hyon-jong
Tr. Choe Wolhee

How, on a summer day,
without the thunderbolt
which cracks the backbone of heaven and earth
how can a man
cleanse himself
body and soul,
really scrub and cool himself
-light as air
to shift like a breeze
let the dawn inundate him?

the umbilical cord of your voice makes us
smile like fresh born babies.
Nothing earthbound has ever given us
the limpid blood
and ambrosia of your voice.
Nothing on earth,
no idea or book,

no triumphs or enchantments,
petty our majestic,
can halt the birth of a world
which your vocal chords bless
as you tongue the cosmic entrails clean;
nor excuse the lucent pathlessness
of your passage.

Thunder, hear me.
The thunder that claps and ceases
between my skull and ribs
is unlike you. It cannot flow through heaven and earth
fearless of beginning or ending, and yet
stops this repetition that digs its own grave,
purging this fetid system,
and burning off the lukewarm, hesitant motion.
I feel as cascading enthusiasm, the measure of which
is the eyes infused with grape green juice
of a young coed who yesterday
in a voice, like seeds floating downslope
wondering if she should root there,
asked: "How's it going, professor?"

Whatever. With you, the ever-dangerous truth,
the nakedness that competes with death
in the fever of my flesh, my poetic alchemy quickens.
Flow on, thunder, as the theme
of my song, my life,
the impure mix,
you, thundering nirvana
you who thunders to the wild joy of kesa.1

You voice has echoed within.
Look. This new born babe,
thunder-naked, nourishing in
the limpid blood and food
of your voice, relishes
stepping bewitched upon
the luminous pathlessness. Thunderbolt...


1 A Buddhist term referring to the state of suffering caused by stupidity, hatred, and greed.

Author's Profile

Chong Hyon-jong worked as a reporter for seven years and subsequently taught at Yonsei Unversity as a professor of Korean Literature. He has received the Pablo Neruda Medal and the Eungwan (Silver Crown) Medal, which is the second highest Order of Cultural Merit in Korea. He has translated the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, and Federico García Lorca into Korean.