My Life: a Birch Tree by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Dul Chil Re

My Life: a Birch Tree by Jung Kut-byol

Did long deep coughs
make something break out?
On the pit of my stomach a yellowish bruise has spread.

A birch tree stands along the road, as though punished.
What spread inside the tree
that made such a white color emerge?
A bony, frosted body
that sheds leaves, flowers, and all the colors of the world,
that buries within the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the lights of the world.
An entangled heart with even the veins laid bare.
The winter birch tree completes its bruise,
casting its desolate shadow on frozen ground.

I embrace a charred house of lungs–
a magpie hovers around for an eternity.

자작나무 내 인생/ 정끝별

속 깊은 기침을 오래하더니
무엇이 터졌을까
명치끝에 누르스름한 멍이 배어 나왔다

길가에 벌(罰)처럼 선 자작나무
저 속에서는 무엇이 터졌길래
저리 흰빛이 배어 나오는 걸까
잎과 꽃 세상 모든 색들 다 버리고
해 달 별 세상 모든 빛들 제 속에 묻어놓고
뼈만 솟은 저 서릿몸
신경줄까지 드러낸 저 헝큰 마음
언 땅에 비껴 깔리는 그림자 소슬히 세워가며
제 멍을 완성해 가는 겨울 자작나무

숯덩이가 된 폐가(肺家) 하나 품고 있다
까치 한 마리 오래오래 맴돌고 있다

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).

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