Selected Poems by Ha Jaeyoun (1)

  • onDecember 1, 2019
  • Vol.46 Winter 2019
  • byHa Jaeyoun
Cosmic Goodbye
Tr. Jake Levine



We are not being stopped

merely in order to make boundless

and minute noises.


Just as I am not a musical instrument

that can be played by someone who is not myself,

just as I look at myself resulting from myself


Somewhere, as love is shared,

unqualified persons are conceived.


Leaving our former world, we

merely turn our new planet into a wasteland.


As the breath that I inhale through my gills

is conveyed to your lungs, like black spots

we grow colder toward each other,


grow darker,

piercing one another’s surface.


Translated by Chung Eun-gwi, Brother Anthony of Taizé




A Person



After I used to be like that frosty pink

On the night cloud hanging over that long, stretched out island,


Just as time passes slowly,

I became a person.


Sometimes I was like the murky shadow

That startled a friend awake

Who fell asleep for a moment at the end of a flowerbed

In the afternoon.


But now

I became a person.


Soft coral, the blue of cotton candy, in the ocean raindrops are falling

From the half-face of the night moon climbing above.


The lullaby in the dream of my child

Who sleeps in the future, the final verse

Of a song no one has ever heard.


After the tide rolls in, while it rolls out again, the waves

Pull white sand, the setting sun, and starlight,

Returning them back to their place.


Vanished seasons overlap

Darkening the sky outside the earth,


And I became a person

Repearling the seashells to the string of this necklace

That connects the colors, pieces, and names

Of all the beaches in all the countries

Floating on earth.


Translated by Jake Levine, Hyemi Seok, Soohyun Yang





Spirit and Opportunity


Without any reason whatsoever,

Did you start a program

Called the infinite vacation that never ends?


When the command that enters you

Pushes you forward

In a way that can only be described as fatal,


In order to record the soul of the sandstorm

Blowing in from the farthest lands,

Your whole body must be covered with dust.


The proof is in your pupils.

All worlds begin from dust.


Spirit tumbling down the canyon of broken time.


In a scene impossible to unfold,

Like the wings of a satellite that are eternally spread,


Sourced from infinity, sorrow is transmitted


Like a single speck marked between infinity and infinity,

To us.


Translated by Jake Levine, Hyemi Seok, Soohyun Yang





The Things I Know



I know

An envelope has

Only a single person as its recipient.

The moment I stop breathing

On this side of this thin layer of air,

Is the moment I realize you start to run

On that side where the air is more thin.

When light flickers for a microsecond,

I know

Millions of messages are coming and going mid-air.

Without a single one crashing into another, they are

Delivered at high speed.

A feather of a little bird

Exposing its white belly, balancing in the sky

Falls and I know

That nobody remembers the moment

Of a feather falling.

To find the face you have now,

You threw out tens of thousands of expressions and

I know it isn’t here, but over there

Where the snowflakes falling today

Make it cold.


Translated by Jake Levine, Hyemi Seok, Soohyun Yang




An Acquired Life



The languages of other countries

Are all we need.

Love is that which disappears.

Your lips are your flag.

All that which pours out and pools,

The magic that fills your body with new blood

Rests at the tips of an exiled child.


No song begins with an anacrusis

Just to end.

Wearing a borrowed immigrant’s coat,

Clearing an incomplete throat,

Yes, yes, I, am, here,

Torn up



As one string from a scrap of cloth

Is swept away into the wind

Into a thing that cannot be, split

Apart into unwritable text.


Translated by Jake Levine, Hyemi Seok, Soohyun Yang


Author's Profile

Ha Jaeyoun (b. 1975) made her literary debut in 2002 when she won Literature and Society’s New Writer’s Award. She has published three poetry collections, Radio Days (2006), Like All the Beaches in the World (2012), and Cosmic Goodbye (2019), and the monograph The Adventure of Modern Poetry and the Changing Korean Language (2012). She is a visiting professor at the Korea University School of Liberal Arts Education.