Ha... No Shadows

  • onNovember 16, 2014
  • Vol.21 Autumn 2013
  • byKim Su-Young


Our enemies are nothing to look at.
Our enemies do not look fierce like Kirk Douglas or Richard Widmark.
They are not in the least fierce villains,
they are even virtuous.
They disguise themselves as democrats,
they term themselves good citizens,
they term themselves the people’s choice,
they term themselves company employees,
they ride in trams, they ride in cars,
they go into restaurants,
they drink, they laugh, they gossip,
their faces express sympathy, sincerity,
they do their work quickly, say they’re busy,
write texts, keep accounts,
they’re in the countryside, by the seaside,
in Seoul, they take walks,
go to movies,
have charm.
Which means to say that they’re right beside us.

Our battle line is invisible to the eye.
Which makes our combat all that more difficult.
Our battle line is not at Dunkerque, or Normandy, or Yŏnhŭi Hill.
Our battle line cannot be found in any atlas.
Sometimes it lies in our homes.
Sometimes it lies in our workplaces.
Sometimes it lies in our neighborhoods but
it is invisible.

In appearance our combat is not as active as burnt-earth strategy,
or “Battle at Gun Hill,” neither is it nice to see.
Yet we are all the time fighting.
Morning, noon, and night, as we eat,
as we walk down the street, as we enjoy a chat,
as we do business, as we engage in engineering works,
as we go on journeys, as we weep and as we laugh,
as we eat spring greens,
as we go to the market and sniff the smell of fish,
fully fed, and thirsty,
making love, dozing off, in dreams,
waking up, and waking up, and waking up…
as we sit in class, as we go home
as we set our watches to the siren, as we are shining our shoes…
our combat knows no rest.

Our combat fills all the space between heaven and earth.
Since it’s democracy’s battle, it has to be fought democratically.
As there are no shadows in the heavens, democracy’s battles likewise know no shadows.
Ha… no shadows.

Ha… just so…
Ha… and yet…
why, just so indeed… that’s how it is. …
Uhuh… uh… what?
Ah, I see… I see, I see.


* Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé

Author's Profile

Kim Su-Young (1921–1968) is one of the most exceptional poets of modern Korea. He mainly wrote participatory poetry that emphasized the criticism of reality and the spirit of resistance. He died from an accident when he was forty-seven, after which the Kim Su-Young Literary Award was instated in his honor. Mischief of Moon Country is his only collection published during his lifetime, although he left behind over 300 poems. Collections of his poems have been translated into French, Spanish, and German.