"First" & Other Poems

These poems have been drawn from the translation portfolio in the May/June issue of the American Reader, available here. They were translated from Korean by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy L. Brandel.


by Hwang Byeong-seung

The boy
In and out
Like a rat head
That inspects the outside of its hole

What good are the legs?
The girl
Like the rat’s daughter-in-law
Lying flat on her face under the floor covering

Tick Tock Tick Tock

The sound of the clock’s second hand
Comes and goes
Like a ping pong ball
Punching their heads in turns.


A Brief Nap
by Moon Tae-jun

When I wake from a nap
I become a tree that has seen flowers off

Several times even in one day
The spirit is abandoned in an unfamiliar place

Today I have dreamt again of frightened roe going backwards

Dream, a distancing dream of the day
Like a sister prone to tears who returns after visiting her mother

Waking from a nap I rinse my mouth with cold water,
I hear a pheasant crying in faraway vines, my fist clenched tight

In the afternoon I stand like a hollow tree



The Ibis
by Moon Tae-jun

Stepping in the mountain shadow on the rice paddy
the old ibis
stands still
A deep thought lingers on her body and passes
Like I once stared at an empty pond vacantly
Is this how loneliness lingers?
It was the evening when the mountain shadow fully wetted her ankles

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