A Sand Woman by Kim Hye-soon

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Lee Sang Youp

A Sand Woman by Kim Hye-soon

From inside sand a woman was lifted up—
she was intact, not even a hair damaged

After his departure she hadn’t slept or eaten, it was said–
though she kept her eyes closed,
and wasn’t breathing,
she wasn’t dead

People came and took her away—
they undressed her, immersed her in salt water, parted her legs,
cut her hair, opened her chest, I was told

Though they said he had died at the battlefield
and even though the country she left was far away,
the woman held her breath
and didn’t release it into the world—
though knife blades went in and out of her body, she would not open her eyes.

They sewed her up again and laid her down inside a glass case—
he, whom she had been awaiting, didn’t come, but from four corners fingers pressed in

Every day I looked down vacantly
on two hands they laid out on paper–
after they lifted up the woman hidden inside sand,
I wanted to escape far away from here on a camel

In every dream the woman followed me
and opened her closed eyes like a flash—
the insides of her eyelids were wider and deeper than the desert’s night sky

(Originally published in The Korea Times, November 2, 2009)

Kim Hye-soon was born in 1955 at Uljin, North Gyeongsang Province. She graduated from Konkuk University majoring Korean literature and started writing poems from there.
Her literary career took off when she debuted with her poem “The Corpse that Smokes Cigarettes” in 1979. In 1997, she received the Kim Su-young Literature Award and also the Korean Poetry Award in 2000. She is currently a professor at the Creative Writing department of Seoul Institute of the Arts.

1 thought on “A Sand Woman by Kim Hye-soon

  1. Pingback: Kim Hye-Soon for TBS eFM 1013 Mainstreet Listeners

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