Don't You Use That Molten Steel

  • onMarch 25, 2019
  • Vol.43 Spring 2019
  • byGeppetto
Tr. Sung Ryu

* Editor’s Note: The following poems were written by Geppetto (the poet's alias) as online comments posted to actual online news articles.


Dangjin steelworker suffers fatal fall into furnace

September 7, 2010

A worker surnamed Kim, 29, died after falling into a 5-meter-deep furnace at a steel plant in Dangjin, South Korea around 2 a.m. today. He was feeding scrap metal into the furnace to produce molten steel when he slipped and fell, Dangjin police said.

As the furnace contained molten steel at temperatures above 1,600 degrees Celsius, his body was not found.


Don’t You Use That Molten Steel


A young man melted in screaming flames.

Don’t you use that molten steel.


You will not make cars,

not make streetlamps,

not make steel rods,

you will not make one needle.


How could you use his toil and tears?


Instead take that molten steel

and ask a sculptor of gentle heart

to shape from clay his living face

pour in the steel, cool in the rain

burnish with care

then raise him before the front gates.


So that his mother might come by sometimes

and murmur, let me touch my baby’s face.





Old man collecting wastepaper in the cold

Newsis, December 26, 2011

The temperature in Seoul dropped to -10 degrees Celsius, prompting local authorities to issue an extreme cold warning. An old man pulls a cartful of wastepaper to a recycling center.




In the end,

lugging dead paper to the doorstep of rebirth

is a task fallen on the old.


On an uphill climb at noon,

a Marlboro box with its flattened maw

boasted it hailed from a forest in Brazil.

Be that as it may, the old man who’d long forgotten his home

was busy adding his heavy gaze to the dubious scale

till his eyes stung with cold.

A paltry sum no doubt,

but he’s earned more life for now.


His funeral costs tucked in his coat, he turned away.

Rather than lament his miserable lot,

he reproached the death of his boy

who surrendered to mere loneliness.

Then he thought,

Why can’t people be reborn?




Woman in her nineties fires shots when denied a kiss

March 26, 2011

A woman in her nineties was arrested for shooting at her neighbor’s house because he refused to kiss her. The online edition of the British tabloid Daily Mirror reported on Saturday that Helen Staudinger, a 92-year-old Florida resident, allegedly fired into her 53-year-old neighbor Dwight Bettner’s house on Monday out of anger after he rejected her demands for a kiss. Bettner was showered with glass when a window shattered but only suffered minor injuries.

“I’ve taken her trash out for her, just neighborly stuff. I guess she just took that as something else,” Bettner said. Staudinger told police she had intended to “shoot his car because she loves him.”1


1. The original Daily Mirror article quotes Staudinger telling the police that she intended to “shoot his car that he loved so much,” but the Korean media appears to have mistranslated her words.




What makes aging painful

is not the aching joints

that keep you up all night,

but perhaps

the heart that forgot to grow old




Tragedy haunts two generations: Mother and daughter go missing in turns

Herald Biz, May 4, 2011

Oh Jaehwan, 52, was separated from her family as a child and never found them again. She married Cho Byeongse, 61, in 1986, with whom she had a son and daughter and built a happy home. But tragedy befell Oh again when her five-year-old daughter Haneul went missing.

Around 8 p.m. on June 16, 1995, Oh was cooking dinner at her house in the redevelopment district of Guro 4-dong, when her daughter went out clutching a handful of dried shrimp she had given her. That was the last she saw of Haneul.

Oh developed social anxiety disorder from the guilt of losing her child, and her husband Cho quit his job to search for Haneul. With both parents focused entirely on the missing girl, their son was left neglected. Cho learned carpentry and began working for a furniture manufacturer to hold the family together, while continuing to look for Haneul every day after work.

“There would be fewer long-term missing people if every police station had a designated team of at least two to three officers,” said Cho, now an active member of the Citizens’ Association for Missing Children and Family, during a forum hosted by the National Police Agency on April 28. “When long-term missing people cases are lumped with other cases involving women and children, they tend to take the back seat,” said Cho in dismay.


Have You Seen Haneul?


While I build furniture I call your name

log by log

nail by nail

I breathe life into every piece like I’m casting a spell

I send off another truckload, believing

someday my wardrobe will reach you

and when you open its doors

it’ll smell like daddy, stir your memory


Done for the day, I leave the dark workshop

when I trip over a tall plank

and burst into tears

Are you this tall by now?


Name Cho Haneul

Age five at the time of disappearance

Last seen on June 16, 1995

She has a mole below her lips

and an outie belly button

She is her sleepless father and mother’s





Dog lends her eyes for blind pal

October 24, 2011

A canine guide has been looking after a blind hound for five years. This heart-warming tale of the two dogs Maddison and Lily was featured by British tabloid The Sun last Saturday. Now aged six, Lily lost her sight when she was eighteen months old because her ingrown lashes constantly rubbed against her eyes, causing permanent damage. Maddison, the seven-year-old dog living in the same house, has since become her new eyes. Staying close to Lily’s side, Maddison helps her find her bearings, takes her to her potty spot, and always snuggles up to her at night. Their story is tugging at the heartstrings of readers around the world.




I can’t see but I still know

tug, that pull on my leash means

let’s go to the cedar woods


I can’t see but I still know

the kind eyes that at times look back

lest the leash pull my neck too tight


Since I can’t see the dusking sky

I lose track of the passing time


Even so, I still know

tug, that pull on my leash means

sadly it’s time we go home


(Excerpt from pp. 22-31, 34-35.)

Translated by Sung Ryu

Illustrations ⓒ Amy Shin

Author's Profile

Geppetto is a commentator on the Daum (Kakao) portal site who reads online news articles and posts comments on them in the form of poetry. The book Don’t You Use that Molten Steel is a collection of these poems.