Translated from the Korean by Don Mee Choi
On the subway your eyes roll up once. Thatís eternity.
The eternally magnified shock of Iím shocked.
You must have bounced out of the train door. It appears that youíre dying.
Even though youíre dying, you think. Even though youíre dying, you listen.
Oh whatís wrong with this woman? People. Passing by.
Youíre a piece of garbage, collapsed. Garbage to be ignored.
As soon as the train leaves, an old man comes over.
He discreetly inserts black fingernails inside your trousers.
A moment later he removes a handbag from you and takes off.
Two middle schoolers come over. They rummage around in your pockets.
They kick. Camera shutters click.
Your funeral photo is on the boysí cell phones.
You watch the panorama unfold in front of you like the dead normally do.
Your entire lifetime floods in.
Your gaze directed outwards, now departs for the vast space inside you.
Death is something that storms in from the outside. The universe inside is bigger.
Itís deep. Soon you float up inside it.
Youíre stretched out over there. Like a pair of discarded pants.
When you put the left leg on, the right leg runs faraway, your clothes
your zipperless clothes are swirling. At the corner of the subway, on your way to
Pitiful. At one point the woman was embraced as bones grasp marrow,
embraced as bra cups grasp breasts.
Black hair, coming and going, clutches. A single outfit.
Fog dinosaur is about to walk out from the womanís body.
She opens her eyes wide. But thereís no exit left.
The womanís dead. Turned off like the nightís sun.
Now the womanís spoon can be discarded.
Now the womanís shadow can be folded.
Now the womanís shoes can be removed.
You run away from yourself. Like a bird distant from its shadow.
You decide no longer to endure the misfortune of loving that woman.
You think about it again, Why was I a drifter, searching for meaning
when the womanís body remains quietly in her shoes?
You shout, I donít have any nostalgia whatsoever for that woman!
But you roll your eyes the way the woman did when she was alive
then you continue on your way to work as before. You go without your body.
Will I get to work on time? You head towards the life you wonít be living.
A white rabbit dies and becomes a red rabbit,
for it bleeds even after itís dead
Soon the red rabbit becomes a black rabbit,
for it rots even after itís dead
Because itís dead, it can become big or small at will
When itís huge itís like a storm cloud and when itís tiny itís like an ant
You try shoving an ant rabbit into your ear
The ant rabbit eats everything in sight, the wide grass field inside your ear
then it gives birth to two bunnies bigger than a storm cloud
Your ears are buzzing Ė every sound is buzzing - your ear is dying Ė a rabbit is dying
Sometimes a dead rabbit reincarnates as a bloodied feminine napkin
At times you pull out a dead rabbit from your panties
Every month you pull out a dead rabbit and hang it on the wall
On the wall you hang a crying that smells like rabbitsí ears
Translatorís Note: The two poems are from a long poem called Autobiography of Death, made up of 49 poems. Each poem represents a day in the 49 days during which spirit roams about after departing from the body at death.
Kim Hyesoon is one of the most prominent poets of South Korea. She lives in Seoul and teaches creative writing at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. Her most recent books in translation are Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream (Action Books, 2014) and Iím OK, Iím Pig (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).
Don Mee Choi is the author of The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010) and translator of contemporary Korean women poets. Her most recent works include a chapbook, Petite Manifesto (Vagabond Press, 2014), and a pamphlet, Freely Frayed,ᄏ=q, Race=Nation (Wave Books, 2014).