Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid
Mother Still Wears Flowery Underwear by Kim Kyung-ju
Only as I hang out the laundry
after returning to my hometown
do I realize that Mother still wears red flowery underwear.
One snowy day, she kept me near her
as she diligently chose underwear for her family
from a cart at the market.
As the speaker boomed
into the expansive sky, ample like her bottom,
Mother picked up a pair of light panties
and rubbed the warm cotton on her cheek
till the fabric became a damp red.
The flower pattern that she rubbed with her fingertips
made Mother still feel alive as a woman.
Today, cheeks flush with the memory of that red flower pattern.
As Mother proved whenever she started over again
with her newly washed underwear,
those flowers won’t wither easily,
just as the underwear in the market was still new
no matter how many handled it.
Onto her hanging underwear, one by one
a few flying snowflakes descend and gently take on the red color.
From the wrinkled flowers, a clear flower water drops, drip drip—
a pair of Mother’s old panties
that might have felt shy within the drawer
next to a snowball-sized moth ball.
Into the mossy smell of skin, the sunlight softly settles.
(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 )
Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.