At Sapyung Station by Kwak Je-gu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

At Sapyung Station by Kwak Je-gu

The last train never came.
Outside the waiting room snow blossoms piled up all night.
The sawdust stove was making a fire
and every window was blindingly bright
with falling white millet flowers.
Some were dozing like the old moon,
some were coughing with cold.
Recollecting the moments I longed for,
I threw in a handful of sawdust into the fire.
Even if, deep inside, we were full of words,
with our blue palms put near the fire,
nobody spoke.
All of them knew that
to live is sometimes to keep silent, as if drunk,
as if returning home
fiddling with a dozen yellow corbina or a basket of apples.
Amid the long-troubled coughing
and cigarette smoke that is like a bitter medicine,
snow flowers piled up little by little
and then everyone’s ears were drenched
with the chords of snow flowers.
After midnight,
alienation and aching bones
all swept into the snowfield,
yet, where does the night train flow now,
with a few windows shaped like maple leaves?
Calling out those moments that I longed for,
I threw a handful of tears into the fire.

Kwak Je-gu (곽재구) was born in Gwangju in 1954. He studied Korean literature at Chonnam National University. He made his literary debut as a poet with “At Sapyung Station,” which won the Spring literary award organized by the Joongang Daily in 1982. From 1981 to 1987, he worked as a member of “May Poetry,” a group of creative writers deeply inspired by the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. His poetry collections include At Sapyung Station, Jeonjang-po Arirang, Korean Lovers, A Song of Seoul and The Clear Current. He currently teaches creative writing at Suncheon National University. In 1996, he received the Dongseo Literary Award.

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