I Walked Tall

  • onOctober 5, 2021
  • Vol.53 Autumn 2021
  • byKim Ae Ran
I Walked Tall


No Place to Be


Do you think you’re a celeb?

Or a model of some sort?

What’s with all this

gay love nonsense?

The rumor reached Mother’s ears too

—the Dark Lord of our home

Every time she sees me,

Mother’s face

twists into a frown,

like a bug is crawling up her neck

Father treats me like a clown

I heard these days it’s cool to stick out

You certainly seem to be doing your best

My brother threatens me outright

Gawd, I’m so embarrassed I could die

Just know you’re dead meat

if my friends find out!

I dropped out of school, afraid to face my schoolmates

Should I run away to avoid my scary family?

Where do I go when I leave home?

There’s no place I can rest easy



I’m a Seventeen-Year-Old Delivery Boy


I was told I’d get 70,000 won a day

Score! I thought and jumped at the offer


I thought this gig would be a breeze but

Mr. Kim busted up his shoulder and called it quits

Mr. Park broke his leg and called it quits

Mr. Cha had a concussion and was rushed to the ER


I feel like quitting every day

But I can’t

—I need the money


If the elevator is broken, I take the stairs

If there’s no one home, I leave the package at the front desk

I go up, I go down

towing heavy loads


I can’t protest

when I’m made to compensate for a missing package

I can’t rest

when my legs feel weak

I’m a seventeen-year-old delivery boy



A Single Daddy’s Mom


I thought I was done raising kids

But how could I have known

my troubles would truly begin in my old age?

Mom’s griping started up again in the morning


I’m eighteen

The girl I loved took off

leaving me only our baby

The baby became Mom’s charge

I dropped out of school for the child

Formula, diapers, clothes, shoes . . .

There were so many things to buy


It’s your seed, your responsibility

Dad, a day laborer, said providing for his wife and children was hard enough

You should’ve been careful

Neither you or I got to finish school

What sort of life is that?


Even as she feeds the baby formula

Even as she changes the diapers, Mom keeps up her complaining

A single daddy’s mom whose gray hairs have multiplied


Give it a break, for crying out loud!

I feel sorry and get mad at her for no reason



Please Give Me More


Butts shift restlessly in seats

even before the bell rings at the end of the fourth period

The teacher’s voice

grazes past ears soullessly

Only the loud ticktock of bellies can be heard


Youngwon, Soojung, Sanyoo, and Jaekyung

already have one foot out from under their desks

and set in the middle of the aisle

so that they can sprint out as soon as the class ends


Jaekyung has the longest legs of all

If my short legs are going to beat those long ones of his

and be number one

I need to be the first out the door


I was the first to leave

but Jaekyung is right in front of me

skipping stairs, three or four at a time


The cooks fill Jaekyung’s tray to the brim

with scoops of rice and loads of side dishes

They give me only half of what they gave Jaekyung

I ask for more so they give me a little extra

Give me some more, I tell them

They say, You eat a lot for a slip of a girl

I can beat him in arm wrestling, I reply

I’m better than him at soccer too

Loaded tray in hand

I walk tall


©Park Sanghyuk



Walk like a Lady


Friends say my walk

isn’t pretty to look at

Some even say I walk like a man

Every time they say that

I retort confidently,

Why? What’s wrong with my walk?


Mom scolds me sometimes

for the way I walk

When we go somewhere together

she demands I walk like a girl

When she does that

I swing my arms vigorously

and march even more briskly

I straighten my knees

and walk with great gusto

As if this is my own way

of living in this world

Like a lady

Like me

As if asking if this isn’t a pretty good way to live



Translated by Agnel Joseph


I Walked Tall
Changbi Education, 2019