Bare Foot by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Illustrated by Kwon Shina

Bare Foot by Moon Tae-jun

A clam at the fish store pushes a bare foot outside its mud hut
sticking out its bare foot
the way the dead Buddha reaches out for the disciple who cries sorrowfully
Immersed long in flatland and water the foot has wrinkled up
When I touch its bare foot with reverence the clam
slowly withdraws as if having the first thought, as if having the longest thought
At that speed even time, even road might have flown
Anyone might have gone out or, separated, might have come back slowly like that
Always barefoot I guess
As the bird having lost its love endures the night with beak buried into chest
so might the clam have endured sorrow with foot buried into chest
When the house cried for food
he might have gone out to beg barefoot, blistered
After all day in the street
perhaps he returned to the hut reeking with poverty
the house content, full of food
its crying stopped, quiet as darkness

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture 4)

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard(2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004), the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

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