Four Poems

by Kim Hye-sun / translation by Don Mee Choi

Find the Exit

When I’m about to doze off, I hear footsteps coming up the stairs inside my body,   houses that get startled even before the lights are off, shoes that can seen in the dim light, doors with their eyes half closed    Pacman is coming up the stairs    he walks up, eating up the dotted lines inside a maze   he comes up the inside of a video case made of flesh   a horizon of sleep extends below   the houses of my life drown below the horizon  inside the maze of two gloomy brains, the flies that have devoured me at last and that are about to shoot up from the ground remain submerged   and even the sun that has risen up the stairs of the sky for millions of years remain submerged in water    Pacman the outlaw jumps up above the horizon of sleep   Pacman, find the exit    this game will end if you find the exit    Pacman goes back into the water   he stops and flings open a door    I, a naked child, shiver shiver   a train whistles and enters a railway station    there Pacman kicks a barricade that keeps me hidden Pacman breaks through and attacks    every time he changes his direction my body’s rooms get turned on and off like lit-up squares  a room bright with fall colors closes and a room of snowstorms opens   a tear-filled spring begins to shine   a bellybutton turns on the light   I lie down and turn, hugging my chest with my two hands maybe because Pacman’s black knife has struck my chest   a blanket falls down to my feet and the horizon of sleep shoots up above my body    time plays me like a VCR   with the Pacman locked in I open the curtain   locked inside the lit square, I look out at Seoul which is still dark    


A Room with Drawn Blinds

I am getting up……  That’s your path not mine…… I am getting up from the chair…… That’s your path not mine…… All day long a phrase floats around in between the close-up’s images  I want to rub my burning cheeks against a cool fresh window  it was a cold sea  inside the sea there was a deep well colder than the sea   shallow houses were asleep next to the well and transmitted their sleep-talk outside of the deep water to the night sky   cold trees trembled in the waves  I wanted to throw myself into the ice cold well  an empty alley, a stream of dark blood flowed in the alley…… That’s your path not mine…… I am getting up from the chair…… tall antennas are attached to the roofs of the shallow houses   do the ends of the antennas reach above the sea? From the antenna ends that cannot be seen……  That’s your path not mine…… I am getting up from the chair…… I am skin   you are heart  a pocket that doesn’t want to hold anything, the heart beats bam bam  it boils up from inside the skin as well   how do I get inside?……  That’s your path not mine…… I am getting up from the chair  the two chairs under a window in a room with drawn blinds, all day long I take turns sitting in those chairs  inside the room with drawn blinds   all my blood-paths rush into it, but the heart is filled up with knotted paths that hold nothing


Inside My Eyes

When someone shovels sand once, twice
into the endless sea under my eyelids,
then waits for the sand to settle,
closes my eyelid and leaves

water flows from the bottom of a mountain to its peaks inside the sea.
Birds spurred with fish scales fly
deep, deep into the mountain.
A deep place becomes high,
a high place becomes low.

When night arrives in that place, my dead grandmothers
calmly walk by our feet with lamps lit. 
Cloud circles beneath a pair of feet,
and people tie windows onto the floor.

Father lays eggs in the wind, and mothers
raise the young in the crooks of the branches.
The people of that place diligently raise a mountain range
to carve out a land, to scoop up a moon.

Deep inside my endless sea there is a very strange
upside-down world, always deep.


A Riverside Food Stall

A black garbage bag is in front of a riverside food stall. A cigarette end goes into it.  A withered chrysanthemum goes in scrunched up.  A snot-filled tissue goes in.  Sour rice goes in.  Left over tripe pours in.   A dried-out strand of noodle goes in.  A train is arriving.  Passengers, please stand behind the white line.  A bobbed-head gets on the train.  Riding boots get on. Two Buddhist nuns that are like white lead get on. A drunken face gets on, burping. As the door is about to close, a woman carrying a child on her back gets on.  A wad of gum enters the garbage bag. An apple pit enters. Stars of the black sky also enter. A woman wearing a towel over her head comes out and ties up the bag and me and then goes back inside.  Between a feminine napkin and a fish head, a fluorescent bulb bursts and dies out on its own.  Smelly vapors mix and a baby’s head shoots up, a cry bursts out.  Black stars appear on the black sky and blue stars appear on the blue sky. A train for Ŭljiro, carrying new passengers, stops again exactly 88 minutes later at the Riverside Station.  A black garbage bag is left in front of a riverside food stall.  A feminine napkin goes up to the elevated station.  A fish head goes up.

about Kim Hye-sun