Above the Roofs by Hwang In-suk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Anne Rashid

Above the Roofs by Hwang In-suk

I look over tiled roofs, slate roofs, concrete roofs,
canvas-covered roofs,
waves of roofs, hills and plains.
I look over every corner,
even the crevasses and caves, folds and gaps
that the roofs embrace.
Wow, if these roofs unfolded,
how many times would they wrap around the earth?
While imagining this, a cat enjoying sun bathing, outstretched on a silvery tent,
lifts up its head to look around as though feeling a gloomy foreboding,
and fixes its gaze upon me.
It appears to be in a bad mood.
Don’t worry, my body feels too heavy
to share your space.
Cats are users of empty air spaces.
The energy circulating inside their bodies
sends them up and up
and leads them to discover this vast territory.
Cats, addicts of adrenaline,
find thrill in tilted roofs, wobbly ceilings,
in other words, slantedness,
and empty spaces between roofs.
As if roofs give birth to cats,
up and up the cats soar to the roofs.

In this city where back alleys have disappeared,
on the back alleys above the roofs, on these alleys above, so to speak,
gently I place my breath.

(Originally published in New Writing from Korea, Volume 2, 2009)

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They Will Wake Up to Laughter by Hwang In-suk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Jung Jeong-im

They Will Wake Up to Laughter by Hwang In-suk

In an unfamiliar house, with an unfamiliar family, at an unfamiliar dining table,
suddenly there I am,
only I feel ill at ease.
These people don’t mind me
and continue to dine.
Feeling estranged, I ask myself if this is a dream.
Reflecting back, I realize it is a dream
Though I know it is, I still feel uncomfortable,
so uncomfortable I feel as though it cannot be

How strange would the people of that world live?
Suddenly someone appears and disappears.

Next time I will burst,
burst into loud laughs.

They will wake up,
and stare at me.

Look, the moon is urinating.
Even the other side of the grave will get wet.

(Originally published in New Writing from Korea, Volume 2, 2009)

Painted by Jung Jeong-im

Ran, My Former Cat by Hwang In-suk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Anne Rashid

Ran, My Former Cat by Hwang In-suk

I didn’t know where you came from.
Always all of a sudden
you appeared
at a time when nobody was around,
at a time when time belonged to nobody,
hanging about the roof of a rented house
as if from inside my heart,
as if from the edge of the moon
with a small half-cry,
you appeared.

You ate as if for me only.
In a china bowl, your food tinkled
and then you lapped water a bit
as if for me only.
You used a sandbox.
Though I wanted to seize and hold you,
I couldn’t do that.
With small cries
suddenly you hid yourself.
While playing hide and seek, I felt drowsy
but sleep didn’t come.

It was before day broke.
By chance I saw
the way you walked like a tired night
on the long wall beyond two roofs.
The wall had an off-limits sign on it.
You stopped for a moment
and glanced toward me.
You looked for a moment, walking shakily.
You looked so lonesome.
But, oh, your body that embodied geometry
lightly drew a straight line
from where the wall curved
and you disappeared instantly.
In that moment cicadas chirred everywhere.
In that moment, the day brightened.
In that moment, tears welled up.
You went away, over
to a place where you couldn’t invite me.
From far beyond you came.
You looked so lonesome;
I was so lonesome.

(Originally published in New Writing from Korea, Volume 2, 2009)

Hwang In-suk was born in Seoul in 1958. She debuted in 1984 with “I’ll Be Reborn as a Cat” in the Kyunghyang Daily Spring Literature Contest. She was awarded the Dongseo Literary Award and the Kim Su-Young Literary Award.