As If Walking Without Feet

  • onOctober 21, 2015
  • Vol.29 Autumn 2015
  • byHwang Tong-gyu
Joy of Living
Tr. Hwang Hoonsung


Plantar fasciitis restrains each step,
Rippling spasms of pain on the heel of the right foot;
The pain does not wane despite nine shots of acupuncture.
This time of the year,
When Adonises are past their prime and
Forsythias are in full bloom,
I was forced to quit strolling these two months and
Be absent from the drinking spree, declining my friends’ beckoning call last weekend.
While rummaging through a book of paintings,
I was struck by the memory of a male figure, who sold picture albums limping,
At Ephesus in Turkey four years ago,
Crying aloud, “one dollar, one dollar.”
He walked away with a severe limp,
Though his limping had been barely noticeable before us.
His face was far from gloomy.
A few hours ago, people were skipping along the street
And their lives looked in fuller sail than mine,
This world was far more resilient than I thought.
At Bandi and Luni’s, the basement bookstore near Sadang Station, I struggled to climb down.
Instead of peeking at my poetry collection newly born five days before,
I climbed up the stairway hanging on to the handrail with a thick volume of album paintings in another hand.
I stopped at the doorway.
A young couple was talking with their fingers.
The boy was moving briskly his hand sometimes with two hands above the chin high,
And the girl was casting an earnest eye at it with folded hands.
On moving my footsteps, I noticed, “Ah! the flame shrouded in her eyes!”
Her eyes were in tears.
The face full of ecstatic bliss was crying,
As if talking in sign language without hands.
I passed them by forgetting my own lameness.

Translated by Hwang Hoonsung


Author's Profile

Hwang Tong-gyu is a professor emeritus at Seoul National University and chairperson of the literature department at the National Academy of Arts. He was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley and NYU, and participated in the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. He has received the Lee San Literature Prize, Daesan Literary Award, Midang Literary Award, and Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit. His books of poems have been translated into English, German, French, and Spanish.