Flu by Kim Hye-soon

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Flu by Kim Hye-soon 

We looked at each other in the other world
as if I existed inside the black and white picture he was looking down from.

Inside his picture I always felt cold.
Coughing trees were standing along the river, hacking away.

Whenever I awoke, I was always climbing a snowy mountain.

After narrowly making it around a corner, there were still vast white snow fields
and endless cliffs that dropped sharply from the edge.

That evening I looked out at his eyes, wide open like a frozen sky.

A rumor spread that a ghost with the flu was coming to the village.
At every chimney, clouds shook their bodies.

He is not in my body, because I drove him out.

With an avalanche in my heart I shivered for more than an hour.

As coughing trees shook down snowballs,
jagged ice shot out from the open valley.

Barefaced, I was sitting on a frozen bench,
withstanding the wind, with quivering lips.

I wanted to escape from this frame he was looking down from.

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 3, 2010)

Kim Hye-soon’s writing career began in 1979 when she published five poems, including “A Smoking Poet,” in the quarterly magazine Literature and Intelligence. Her publications include the collections From Another Constellation; A Scarecrow Father Built; A Star’s Hell; My Upanishad, Seoul; Poor Love Machine; and Calendar Factory, Factory Supervisor, Please Look. Recently she won the Daesan Literature Award for her latest collection of poems, Your First (2008). She currently teaches creative writing at Seoul Institute of the Arts.

The Horizon by Kim Hye-soon

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photographed by Chae-Pyong Song

The Horizon by Kim Hye-soon

Who broke it?
The horizon beyond,
the fissure between heaven and earth,
an evening where crimson water spreads out from the gap.

Who broke it?
The slit between upper and lower eyelids,
The scars of my body broken because of emptiness within and without,
an evening where tears erupt from the gap.

Can only a wound flow into a wound?
The glow of sunset rushes toward me as I open my eyes.
When a wound touches a wound,
red water flows without end.
Even the exit, disguised as you, shuts in darkness.

Who broke it?
The white day from the dark night.
During the day she becomes a hawk,
at night he becomes a wolf.
Through the gap, the evening of our encounter
brushes by like a knife blade.

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 3, 2010)



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.