Persimmon Flowers by Kim Jun-tae

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Persimmon Flowers by Kim Jun-tae

When I was young, I counted the falling persimmon flowers.
During the war, I counted the heads of the soldiers.
Now I count money, with spit on my thumb,
and wonder what I will count in the distant future.

감꽃/김준태

어릴 적엔 떨어지는 감꽃을 셌지
전쟁통엔 죽은 병사들의 머리를 세고
지금은 엄지에 침 발라 돈을 세지
그런데 먼 훗날엔 무엇을 셀까 몰라.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, June, 2012)

Kim Jun-tae (1949- ) was born in Haenam, Jeollanamdo. He studied German literature at Chosun University. He made his literary debut in 1969 with the publication of “Thrashing the Sesame” and other poems in The Poet. His poetry collections include Thrashing the Sesame, I Saw God, The Rice Soup and Hope, Fire or Flower?, and Sword and Soil. He is known as the progressive poet of “Oh, Gwangju! The Cross of Our Nation!,” a poem about the Gwangju Uprising he published on June 2, 1980, in The Chonnam Daily. With the publication of this poem, the newspaper was forced to shut down, and he was laid off from his teaching at Chonnam High School. This poem has been acclaimed as the first poem that addressed the uprising. He is a protest poet committed to writing about ruined hometowns, national liberation, and the decolonization of culture.

One thought on “Persimmon Flowers by Kim Jun-tae

  1. Flowers and soldiers: reminiscent of Pete Seeger’s lyrics:
    Where have all the flowers gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the flowers gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the flowers gone?
    Girls have picked them every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the young girls gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the young girls gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the young girls gone?
    Taken husbands every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the young men gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the young men gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the young men gone?
    Gone for soldiers every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the soldiers gone?
    Gone to graveyards every one
    When will they ever learn?
    When will they ever learn?

    Where have all the graveyards gone?
    Long time passing
    Where have all the graveyards gone?
    Long time ago
    Where have all the graveyards gone?
    Covered with flowers every one
    When will we ever learn?
    When will we ever learn?

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