Two Poems

The sun shines through plants alongside the Han River
Pampas grass on the Han River. Photo: dnlspnk/Flickr

Wild Geese

At the northern edge of the Han River
I saw field-cannons march
down the snowdrifts of the valley.

Wild geese flew low.
I woke to see myself seeing
through field-glasses instead of dreams.

I saw the wild geese strut,
their chests puffed high
like soldiers occupying a village.

The guns fired, barrels aimed high.
I dreamed in spite of the bullets,
in spite of the cartridge-belt at my waist,
and waited,
and waited,
forgetting dog tags, frostbite, even my life.


Wind Burial

I bow before your grave.
Nothing has changed, you seem to say —
only the atoms rearranged,
the made flesh of my body made ash.
All is as it was:
the rain falling on the funeral home,
the mourners drinking and playing cards,
the wet slap of shoes slipping on piss.

Translations from the Korean

Hwang Tong-gyu was born in 1938 in Sukch’on, South P’yongan province, in what is now North Korea. Author of fourteen poetry collections and five prose books, he has received the Hyondae Award, Midang Award, and Ku Sang Award.

Suji Kwock Kim, author of Notes from the Divided Country, Private Property, and Disorient, is a former Fulbright Scholar to Korea.

Sunja Kim Kwock’s work focuses on the conjunction of Buddhism and Christianity, particularly liberation theology.