Featured Poem

Poems from 'Autobiography of Death'

To jump to readings of Kim Hyesoon in this podcast, skip to 42.12.

Day Twenty One

Grasshoppers, dragonflies, mosquitoes, and beetles hide
The sky slipslips away high up
The hills roll down to the bottom
The frogs leap into the grave
The phone rings
You receive the pitch-black darkness before the call
From the receiver the sound of darkness weeping
the sound of wind escaping
the trembling voice of
torrential rain

Night pours out from the showerhead
As you reach out your hand to the plunging night
the dead birds’ dark blood

The unbearable reign of smell, except in death
The unbearable disease of landscape, except in death

Someone dead sits at the desk and crinkles paper

A cold winter night for the people of the North Pole
They gnaw on birds that have been buried in the ground wrapped
in bearskin
the red birds that smell like their own heads

Seoul, The Book of the Dead
Day Twenty Two

Listen, listen to the voice of the mountain of the North
The candlelight inside you is extinguished

The moment the first drop of farewell from Ringer’s solution pricks you
the sky made from your sensations, covering your body, lifts
the Achilles tendon of the sky breaks

Your body is now fog floating above sleep
Your face is a cloud floating above your body
Your thoughts are the smoke of grilling meat
Your torment is a scream, a bit of breath, escaping from you

Listen, listen carefully to the voices of the snowy mountain peaks
Don’t look back. If you do, you will turn into a stone falling into a
Don’t cry. If you do, you will be reborn as the bedsore of citizens in
a coma
Listen carefully to the echoes of my words on your distant eardrums
No one will miss you
Fly away freely
When light arrives, offer your eyes
When wind arrives, offer your ears

If you’re still there after giving everything away listen to what I say

Your house flutters like a ribbon on long hair
Hurry, depart!

Before a somebody else’s candle is lit in your body

Day Twenty Four

Sister’s crying, Brother’s crying
Why did you leave when it’s not your turn yet?

In your room, two bottles of soju and a box of sleeping pills
I can’t swallow the pills because my throat hurts*
That’s why I can’t sleep
Whenever I drink, I hit my mum, hit my sister, hit my brother
Even if I take sleeping pills
it hurts hurts hurts
Revenge revenge revenge
My eyeballs roll back even in my sleep

Under my blanket soldiers in blue outfits march with guns with
Bloodshot eyeballs roll about inside my genitals
The soldiers’ yelling lives inside the cast of my broken arm

They beat the shit out of me
They stabbed the shit out of me

Yet they’re the ones who are crying. My mum cries, my sister cries,
my brother cries,
my son cries

I wake up from my dream and get out of bed
I hear my mom, sister, brother wailing in the living room

They say I’m dead.

* from Cho Yong-bom’s psychological study of suicide prevention and societal support for the victims of the May 1980 Kwangju Massacre / Kwangju Democratic Uprising

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About the translation:
Kim Hyesoon
Don Mee Choi
Original language:
2016 Number 3 - The Blue Vein

About the author

Kim Hyesoon

Original poet

Kim Hyesoon

Poet Kim Hyesoon was born in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do in 1955 and received Ph.D. in Korean Literature from Konkuk University. S...

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Don Mee Choi

DON MEE CHOI is the author of Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016), The Morning News Is Exciting (Action Books, 2010), a chapbook Pet...

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