Trees Standing on the Edge by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Trees Standing on the Edge by Jung Kut-byol

I once saw nameless trees
twining their bodies around the barbed wire, growing,
allowing the chains to penetrate their bodies, growing,
embracing the shrapnel driven into their bodies, growing,
absorbing into their bodies railings or fences, growing.

It’s as if they embraced
what restrains them,
without strength to extract these restrictions;
it’s as if they drew in
what impedes them,
without any way to gain their footing,
even though it could cause burning scars.

So, in this twenty-first century,
let us not love too intensely.

끝에 선 나무들/ 정끝별

철조망과 제 몸을 섞어가며 자라는
체인을 제 몸에 밀어넣고 자라는
제 몸에 박힌 수류탄 껍질을 품고 자라는
난간이나 울타리를 제 몸에 삼킨 채 자라는
이름 모를 나무들을 본 적 있다

조여오는 것들,
밀어내는 힘이 없을 때
품어안았던 것도 같다
가로막는 것들,
뛰어넘을 수 있는 발판이 없을 때
차라리 빨아들였던 것도 같다
뜨거운 흉터가 될 줄 알면서도

그러니 21세기여
우리 너무 깊이 사랑하지 말자

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Jung Kut-byol (1964-) was born in Naju, Jeollanam-do. She is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul.  Working as both a poet and a critic, she has published four poetry collections: My Life: a Birch Tree (1996), A White Book (2000), An Old Man’s Vitality (2005) and Suddenly (2008), along with two collections of critical essays: The Poetics of Parody (1997) and The Language of Poetry Has a Thousand Tongues (2008).  She has also edited an anthology entitled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom?: 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

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