The Blooming Public Phone by Kim Kyung-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Han Sang-don

The Blooming Public Phone by Kim Kyung-ju

After work the female factory workers open
the cold locks of their bikes they had parked together.
When large snowflakes like white rice fall outside of the window,
the female workers on the night shift at the wig factory
jump over the wall and rush to the public phone on their breaks.
They press down the snowflakes one by one with their pocketbooks.
The more uneven their teeth are, the more brightly they wave.
In spite of the wind blowing in through the gaps in makeshift walls
and the dusty light bulb, the snow heaps up.
When they press their frozen ears to the receiver
shaking off the encrustation of old numbers,
the clear signals are transmitted—
of the first love that had been cut off like a fingernail
and even of Mother’s hearing aid wrapped within a handkerchief in a drawer—
they all plunge into their hearts.
Each of these signals is stitched into their hearts.
When Chang the foreman puts chains across each alley and leaves,
the female workers take off their white cotton gloves;
their cold fingertips are puffy.
Every place where injuries occur, seams become crooked,
sleepy eyes become hazy over heaps of hair that await weaving.
All night underneath sewing machines the women call out
paper, rock, and scissors
to decide phone privileges; their calls bloom and wither,
but the radio static continues on.

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 [2012])

Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.

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Mother Still Wears Flowery Underwear by Kim Kyung-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Hye Hyon

Mother Still Wears Flowery Underwear by Kim Kyung-ju

Only as I hang out the laundry
after returning to my hometown
do I realize that Mother still wears red flowery underwear.
One snowy day, she kept me near her
as she diligently chose underwear for her family
from a cart at the market.
As the speaker boomed
into the expansive sky, ample like her bottom,
Mother picked up a pair of light panties
and rubbed the warm cotton on her cheek
till the fabric became a damp red.
The flower pattern that she rubbed with her fingertips
made Mother still feel alive as a woman.
Today, cheeks flush with the memory of that red flower pattern.
As Mother proved whenever she started over again
with her newly washed underwear,
those flowers won’t wither easily,
just as the underwear in the market was still new
no matter how many handled it.
Onto her hanging underwear, one by one
a few flying snowflakes descend and gently take on the red color.
From the wrinkled flowers, a clear flower water drops, drip drip—
a pair of Mother’s old panties
that might have felt shy within the drawer
next to a snowball-sized moth ball.
Into the mossy smell of skin, the sunlight softly settles.   

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 [2012])

Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.

A Strange Tale Kim Kyung-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

A Strange Tale Kim Kyung-ju

I burned the map
so where
do all the buried volcanoes flow?

There is a dream of conception
one only dreams once more after birth.
Will the narratives that replace sleep
become my tomb?

I see a doll that sits in a room vomiting a strange cord.

To a human being who has flown out into the earth
and slowly floats to his own dream of conception,
there is a blood only he can bleed again
when he crawls back into the womb.

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 [2012])

Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.

The Hole by Kim Kyung-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Lee Sang-youp

The Hole by Kim Kyung-ju

I clean up the hole
The hole hatches an egg
Desiring a hole,
I have written a few books
The hole has no work today
Exhausted, the hole’s sympathy is at risk
Clearing away the hole, I ran down the stairs
The hole is the life of the inner room
Looking down at the hole is the time that pushes an object
The hole where a toilet should receive all from top to bottom
There are holes that ask the color
The hole’s surroundings are suspiciously drying up
The flowers that bloom away from the hole are heartbreaking
The hole with today’s efforts recognizes more distance than depth
The hole floats within the hole
Nowhere hurts in the hole
It appears only the hole hurts
Waves walk toward heaven bleeding profusely, shouting, “Hole, please save me!”
The hole floats up in the air
The life of the hole that floats in the air
Snowmen appear in a straight line
The hole
The city where the hole appears
The time when the hole is not read like the way Benjamin Péret’s poetry is not read
The time when people are afraid of the hole’s haunting has passed
The flower that blocks the hole dies early
The writing that pursues the hole with all its efforts
The writing that describes the hole
The writing that consumes the hole
I am injured by the hole 
I scoop up something from the hole
After leaving the hole, I can’t believe in the hole
The hole evolves, leaving the hole, because it no longer believes in it
If there is such a thing, my life has already been ruined
I look down at the eye in the hole
I follow it down with my eyes
Like a well, four directions
rise up after breaking the hole
Where do I live?

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 [2012])

Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.

Chronicle by Kim Kyung-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Lee Sang-youp

Chronicle by Kim Kyung-ju

At flower tea time I color my teeth
with the water of old tea
It rains when I, fingers wet with saliva,
pick up the golden yellow feet
of insects from a book
It rains like the evening I ran after
my lost tooth in the stream as a child
The rain falls in the in-between and
I listen to the inside of the rock
I place in this “between”
the isolated language
in which rain falls
When I feel sorrowful from watching my childlike face,
I listen to the inscription of the tooth that slowly floats in water

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 5 [2012])

Kim Kyung-Ju was born in Gwangju in 1976. He studied philosophy at Sogang University. His poetry collections include I am a Season that Doesn’t Exist in This World, The Strange Story, and Calming the Parallactic Eyes. He was awarded the Today’s Young Artist Award and the Kim Su-young Literature Award.