Earning My Keep

  • onOctober 23, 2015
  • Vol.29 Autumn 2015
  • byJeong Ho-Seung
Earning My Keep
Tr. Brother Anthony of Taizé and Susan Hwang


Spring Rain

One day
I dug
into my rotten breast.
There was still some soil left.
I sowed flower seeds
in that soil.
One day,
very curious
about my breast where I had sown flower seeds,
I began to dig into it.
Then spring rain fell
so I stopped.






Someone is proposing to adopt me.
Good for nothing,
I had already been thrown into the box for old clothes.
But they want to add my name to heaven’s family register
and take me with them.
In that case I hope we travel by plane.
It seems the parents adopting me this time
are starkeepers
on some star near Saturn.






The moment ice forms is a hot one.
The winter river is frozen hard.
That moment when even rushing streams
for once in a lifetime
cease all their flowing
and become a single body
is a hot one.




The Air

As Mother sews
she pricks the air with her needle.
Blood oozes out.
Mother mends the air with her needle
to make a shroud.





Earning My Keep

I think I’ll go pay a visit to Hell.
No matter how far away,
I’ll set off as if leaving for work in the morning
then come back as if coming off work in the evening.
Don’t skip meals, chew your food well before swallowing,
be sure to turn off the gas when you step out,
and don’t worry too much about me.
Hell too must be a place where people live,
so if I go to Hell to earn my keep
at last I’ll be able to become a human being.




Fine Singing Pavilion

No humans,
birds alone singing
at the remote Fine Singing Falls.
At the distant Fine Singing Pavilion,
no sound
of human pansori,
only, gushing like a waterfall,
birds’ fine singing.






First snow fell
funeral for dead birds
spring snow fell
funeral for dead ants
heavy snow fell
funeral for dead flowers
finally the last day of snow
with the kids
for a fallen snowman.






One spring day
when azaleas were in bloom,
I picked up a pebble and held it in my palm.
At first the pebble
breathed quickly
like a sparrow panting
but after a while it began to breathe evenly
as if it had fallen asleep,
like me breathing,
snuggled against my mother’s breast
bathed in spring sunshine.






Angels have eyes on the palms of their hands
they have eyes on the soles of their feet
they have eyes on their foreheads
their whole body is an eye.




Flower in Water

In boiling water
a flower blooms.
I pluck that flower
and make a bouquet
for just one person.
So as to not be afraid
of loving,
once again the flower
puts down deep roots
in boiling water.


Mother’s Milk

A few hungry newborn puppies
that had lost their mother
were taken to the belly of the old dog next door.
The following day
her teats were swollen
and white milk began to emerge.
The pups sucked at the milk
all day long, and,
crawled about laughing.


Snow-Damaged Trees

When a blizzard falls
amidst gusts of ancient wind
I embrace the blizzard so strongly
that my arms break
and even if they break they are still as beautiful.
I have, as yet, not once
been wounded
by a blizzard.



My horns are grass
your horns, too, are grass.
Head to head
sharp hairpin horns raised
the eyes full of a sunset blaze
are stupid.
Anger is like grass.
I no longer want to fight
for people.
Letting go of the tension in the broad breast
and strong legs
I simply want us to doze soundly,
embracing each other.



Standing before a Notice Board

Standing before a notice board,
in the photo on a ‘Wanted’ poster
I saw my face.
Wearing glasses, the corners of the mouth drooping
it was definitely my face.
I did not know what great crime I had committed
so that I, for reasons unknown to myself, had become a wanted man
and I lingered a lifetime before the notice board
until I finally realized,
it was for the crime of not loving you,
the crime of having grown old
without loving you.


A Mirror

Sometimes when I look in the mirror
I wonder if my face is that of a demon
and I stare at it for quite a while.
Sometimes the mirror
my face to bits.


Spider Lilies at Seonun-sa

I was too busy to go and see
the camellias at Seonun-sa
so I went to see Seonun-sa’s spider lilies,
only to see the woman I’d loved walk past me.
Every time she looked back
the lilies following her stopped in their footsteps
and I, too, quickly turned back
and hid.