The Snowy Night by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

moontaejunsnowannerashid

Photography by Anne Rashid

The Snowy Night by Moon Tae-jun

Oh, my lover
who had pure eyes;
oh, the silver scales
that occupied your eyes.
Tonight snow falls.
Oh, my poor lover
who wrapped my neck
with a white towel and washed my face,
a sacred quiet descends
upon the lonely planet.
I close my eyes
to remember the time
your hands washed my face.

눈 내리는 밤/ 문태준

말간 눈을 한
애인이여,
동공에 살던 은빛 비늘이여
오늘은 눈이 내린다
목에 하얀 수건을 둘러놓고 얼굴을 씻겨주던
가난한 애인이여,
외로운 천체에
성스러운 고요가 내린다
나는 눈을 감는다
손길이 나의 얼굴을 다 씻겨주는 시간을

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry:Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004),  the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

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A Pair of Shoes in the Yard by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

A Pair of Shoes in the Yard by Moon Tae-jun

I gaze at a pair of shoes in the darkening yard.
They resemble the fiddle head that Sister once dried
all day in the shade of the backyard.
The yard of weathered neck!
A powder case a woman used up
is the pair of shoes worn out
from carrying her body for a long time.
Ah, even at the end of the road
there is no transcending suffering.

뜨락 위 한 켤레 신발 / 문태준

어두워지는 뜨락 위 한 켤레 신발을 바라본다
언젠가 누이가 해종일 뒤뜰 그늘에 말리던 고사리 같다
굵은 모가지의 뜰!
다 쓴 여인네의 분첩
긴 세월 몸을 담아오느라 닳아진
한 켤레 신발이 었다
아, 길이 끝난 곳에서도 적멸은 없다

시집 – 맨발 (2004년 창비)

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004),  the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

The Tongue by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

The Tongue by Moon Tae-jun

Woken up at dawn
the thought of Mother who is ill
cuts me

As a child
when a speck blew into my eye,
Mother cleaned her mouth with cold water
and licked
my eyeball
my soul
with the softest flesh
with her tongue

And when I dozed on and off
while tending  the burning fire hole
in her eyes
fire flashed with worry
from the hole to the chimney

Celebrating the seventh day of the seventh month
she prayed tenderly with both hands
becoming a stone Buddha
The stone Buddha now sits
as her eyeballs

In what life
not inheriting the life from her
could I become an indifferent
fine-tooth comb for her hair?

In what life
could my tongue
wash out
her stone eyeball?

Slowly stretching out my neck to her
I cried and cried
The wet morning

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004),  the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

In the Space the Flower Left by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Painted by Jung Jeong-im

In the Space the Flower Left by Moon Tae-jun

To think is to sit down on an empty chair
To sit down in an empty space the flowers left

To long is to sit down on an empty chair
To still leave it empty after sitting like red petals

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004),  the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

The Ibis by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Photography by Jeong Bong-chae

The Ibis by Moon Tae-jun

Stepping in the mountain shadow on the rice paddy
the old ibis
standing still
A deep thought lingers on the old ibis’s body and passes
Like I once stared at an empty pond vacantly
Is this how loneliness lingers?
It was the evening when the mountain shadow fully wetted her ankles

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard (2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004),  the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

A Flower Blooms by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photography by Im Chang-jin

A Flower Blooms by Moon Tae-jun

The yard is quiet
while the flower blooms.

The day is like a sunny floor.

The naked sky
enters the flower
for an entire day.
The flower’s lips become wet.

The sky has laid
fragrant eggs inside it.

If only meeting the person I miss is like that.

꽃이 핀다/ 문태준

뜰이 고요하다
꽃이 피는 동안은

하루가 볕바른 마루 같다

맨살의 하늘이
해종일
꽃 속으로 들어간다
꽃의 입시울이 젖는다.

하늘이 향기 나는 알을
꽃 속에 슬어놓는다

그리운 이 만나는 일 저처럼이면 좋다.

(Darcy Brandel and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.)

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard(2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004), the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).

At a River Village at Dusk by Moon Tae-jun

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Photographed by Chae-Pyong Song (Suncheon Bay, Korea)

At a River Village at Dusk by Moon Tae-jun

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimes
Sorrow moves like a mountain shadow across your eyes

A bird cries like an echo in a glazed pot but the river, a bigger pot, contains her

In the distance between you and me
between the darkness of this place and that of the village beyond
the river like a big round wheel flows

A cow cries at the village across the river
I cannot help the cow whose cries dampen the cold river with drizzle
Perhaps she just lost her baby or her love
I cannot help the cow who cries till her voice gets hoarse
I cannot forget the crying cow’s white round eyes

Even in my insensitivity I come to think of you sometimes

(Originally published in Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature and Culture, Volume 4 [2011])

moontaejunphotoMoon Tae-jun (1970-) has published four collections of poetry: Chattering Backyard(2000), Bare Foot (2004), Flatfish (2006), and Shadow’s Development (2008) as well as other essays and commentary. One of the most popular poets of the younger generation, Moon uses deceptively simple poetic language with profound lyricism, commenting on the struggle of daily life. Grounded in Buddhist philosophy, his poems speak with reverence for all forms of life and emphasize the necessity of emptying oneself. Moon is a recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Dongseo Literature Award (2004), the Midang Literature Award (2005), and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007).