- onDecember 21, 2017
- Vol.38 Winter 2017
- byMoon Taejun
- The Growth of a Shadow
Tr. Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill 2011
A butter clam stretches out its naked foot from the hut of its shell in a fish store.
As the Buddha stretched his feet out of his coffin for his sad disciples, it stretches its naked foot.
It’s swollen, it soaked too long in the mud and water.
When I touch it, as if to offer my condolences,
it withdraws its foot slowly, as if the touch is its first and last meditation.
Its road, its time, flew by, just like that.
It would go out to meet someone and amble back, just like that;
its foot must always have been naked.
As a bird that lost its mate endures nights with its beak tucked under its wing, the clam tucks its naked foot under its wing for the night.
When the shell cries “ah,”
it goes into the street to beg for a meal with its swollen foot.
When it returns to its hut and the stench of poverty,
after wandering all day on its naked foot,
what cried “ah” in the shell must have fed itself,
that cry would have stopped in the dark.
Translated by Kim Won-Chung and Christopher Merrill
From The Growth of a Shadow. Copyright © 2011 by Autumn Hill Books.
English translation copyright © 2011 by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill.
Reprinted with the permission of Autumn Hill Books, Bloomington, Indiana.
Moon Taejun is a program director at the Buddhist Broadcasting System. His writings include Crowded Backyard, Naked Foot, Flatfish, The Growth of a Shadow, and A Faraway Place. He is a recipient of the Dongsuh Literary Award, Nojak Literary Prize, Midang Literary Award, and Sowol Poetry Award. His poetry collection The Growth of a Shadow has been published in English and his poems “My Mother’s Prayer Beads” and “A Faraway Place” were published in The Guardian.