More Ko Un


Today I showed some poems by the Korean poet Ko Un to a friend, who agreed that he is a genius. Therefore I am resuming my personal campaign to get him the Nobel Prize for Literature. If things keep up I estimate that I should be able to get this done around the year 2520. Here are some more poems:

The Ox

As the ox of one of our neighbors,
the family of Yu t’ae and Pong t’ae
plods along
pulling their oxcart full to overflowing,
if it feels like a shit
in front of some respectable house,
a spot where it doesn’t know it should act respectfully,
it lifts its tail and lets go, splish, splash,
all the time hauling its load.
The farm-help with the withered hand
that lives all the time with that ox,
drunk on cheap hooch
and feeling groggy,
calls out:
“Let’s rest here a while.”
He stops the ox
and pours a stream of piss
into the roadside grass,
no matter if girls are around,
or women,
or old folks, or anyone.
High in the air
swallows about to migrate are warming up.
Man, the sky’s so blue, it makes you crazy.


Nam-sun from Saemal
skips 100 times, 200.
All the kids have gathered,
all the grown-ups have gathered,
all the people from the upper village,
the middle, the lower village have gathered,
all the birds and weeds have gathered.
First she skips with eyes open,
then she skps with eyes closed,
skips 100 times, 200
more, 250 times.

She’ll kill herself.
She’ll kill herself.


Chae-suk, the girl from the house by the well,
a brimming crock of water perched on her head,
gazes into the far-off distance as she walks along.
The early autumn road lies clear ahead.
Next year
Chae-suk will be leaving here.
Chae-suk’s heart swells in expectation.
Chae-suk, so like the darkness left after the moon’s gone down.


To mountains at dark:
What are you?

What are you are you…

A Drunkard

I’ve never been an individual entity.
Sixty trillion cells!
I’m a living collection
staggering zigzag along.
Sixty trillion cells! All drunk.

More about Ko Un here.

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