An Oil Lamp

  • onJanuary 5, 2017
  • Vol.34 Winter 2016
  • byShin Dalja

A white porcelain oil lamp
that I once picked up cheap in a store in Insa-dong
lay for well over ten years pale and forgotten
in a corner of my house.
One day it caught my eye; I quietly lifted it
and the way its still milky plump flesh
was holding a dead black wick
somehow made me feel sorry for it;
I looked and looked again
then poured in a little oil and lit it.

At first it covered its eyes as though bewildered,
but soon
there was a magnificent flame tingling to its very toes.

Ah, that body, still female,
blazing up
if the fire is fed.

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Chung Eun-Gwi


“An Oil Lamp,” Father’s Light, MunhakSegyeSa, 1999, 118 pp.

Author's Profile

Shin Dalja is a member of the National Academy of Arts, and has served as the chair of the Society of Korean Poets. She has received the Republic of Korea’s Eungwan (Silver Crown) Order of Cultural Merit, the Chong Chi-Yong Literature Prize, the Daesan Literary Award, and the Gong Cho Literature Award. Her poetry collection Paper has been translated into Mongolian and Spanish, and Passionate Love into German.