The Rust Tree by the Road by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Im Chang-jin

The Rust Tree by the Road by Jung Kut-byol
(길 섶 녹나무) 

1

In front of the window of my house
A road stretches out;
by the road a rust tree
grows up every night.

2

All the pedestrians
who can’t remember the roads they have walked
become rusty. Don’t we, the poor, witness this
down the roads we come and go upon daily?
The houses crumble down
and the roots of the rust tree move
freely,
punching big holes in the young one’s lungs,
collapsing the building’s scaffolding.

At first, the rust tree’s root is
fatigue gathered on the pedestrian’s soul,
dust descending on the bread crumbs of memory,
and paralysis and amnesia—
the whole picture of our love—
on the sky that we all possess
we make an open graveyard and lie crowded. 

Already at the window
rust leaves touch the lips.
When one by one they cover the roof,
children will become hags—
even your lover
will wither.
It’s fatal for the big tree, producing
rust bloom flowers.
Haven’t we seen the houses on the road
and the earth with words
rusted away?
On every road we traverse
rust trees bloom like the dead of night—
even the birds of childhood
and people change.

3

Beside me, about my love and around my house,
blooming in a crowd, ah, the smell of rust.

(Originally published in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Volume 39, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2011)

Jung Kut-byol is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, she has worked 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) and 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 titled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom? 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

The Rust Tree Inside Me by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Chae-Pyong Song

The Rust Tree Inside Me by Jung Kut-byol
(내 안 녹나무) 

I’ve been sitting on the windowsill. What has gone wrong?
Alongside a movie theater, a few bars, and a closed supermarket
absurd red insects disappear
I know there’s not any place better than here.
I feared the clock and the train,
wars and horror movies, too. I was young then.
I wondered if maybe a corpse was lying between the walls—
a common fantasy. Where was Father then?
When I saw innocent love, for a moment, my heart would stop.
I’ve been sitting on the windowsill.
I want to be a typist with perfect spelling.
Sometimes I’d like to have a child, a scary thought.
Without wheels and pedals, a bike is of no use.
An unfortunate person walks, following an abandoned railroad track.
There are things I would like to forget silently
like the railroad disappearing, covered by overgrown grass.
When the curtain descends, what kind of dream would fall in this window?
My life like a birch tree that dares to sweep away Heaven—
I once thought I would live like that.
After climbing up high enough when the tree could no longer bear me
I’d like to return to earth, stepping on branch tips.
But I, who hold a mouthful of changing clouds,
am a worn-out third-class singer. Tears are falling.
The rain of tears falling. What sort of fiction is this?

(Originally published in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Volume 39, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2011)

Jung Kut-byol is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, she has worked 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) and 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 titled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom? 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

Underneath the Rust Tree, Part Two by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Underneath the Rust Tree, Part Two by Jung Kut-byol
(녹나무 아래 2) 

Love that comes like a picnic
in the place of excrement with blowflies,
enjoy
the remaining spring.
You, with the ruddy face, don’t reject me.
Hallucinated ears and hallucinated eyes
close up when rain patters in
the exiled wound—
I, dark like smoke.
The universe and I
will fall like flowers,
just boards walking, standing without nails hammered in.

(Originally published in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Volume 39, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2011)

Jung Kut-byol is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, she has worked 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) and 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 titled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom? 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

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).

YouTube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmsACF3DRjg&feature=relmfu