80s-90s / K-L / Poetry Translation

A Desert in Water – Ki Hyongdo

A Desert in Water

Ki Hyongdo (1960-1989)

Three in the morning, everything runs into the street. I am forbidden
Monsoons pour down to an empty building
Unintelligible sentences pass on the water and
I no longer hint that I am present

A window, a green corn leaf flow down
A merciless corn plant……I pronounce it slowly
A white dog that’s covered with coal dust
Had abandoned its house in a monsoon that year

A vinyl greenhouse, in every mud submerged in rain,
Leaves were abundant as if they were determined but
Nothing can penetrate a mistrustful person’s silence
A bright building of the night city is frigid

Monsoons, My father’s face floats down
I cling to the window for a moment and gape my mouth
I lived a fake thing, I was a fake thing because I lived
Rustling, my father is effaced, he trades his body with the raindrops
Father, I ask the rain Where are my stubborn determinations gone?
A glossy black window, a white shade of dress shirts explodes
I shout like a madman, even a nightmare cannot be dampened inside the building
Waters abandoned their house! Waters do not reside inside my eyes

(Translated by Jido Ahn, Feb. 2016)


learn more about the poet: Ki Hyongdo (1960-1989)


물 속의 사막

기형도 (1960-1989)

밤 세시, 길 밖으로 모두 흘러간다 나는 금지된다
장마비 빈 빌딩에 퍼붓는다
물위를 읽을 수 없는 문장들이 지나가고
나는 더 이상 인기척을 내지 않는다

유리창, 푸른 옥수숫잎 흘러내린다
무정한 옥수수나무…… 나는 천천히 발음해본다
석탄가루를 뒤집어 쓴 흰 개는
그해 장마통에 집을 버렸다

비닐집, 비에 잠겼던 흙탕마다
잎들은 각오한 듯 무성했지만
의심이 많은 자의 침묵은 아무것도 통과하지 못한다
밤 도시의 환한 빌딩은 차디차다

장마비, 아버지 얼굴 떠내려오신다
유리창에 잠시 붙어 입을 벌린다
나는 헛것을 살았다, 살아서 헛것이었다
우수수 아버지 지워진다, 빗줄기와 몸을 바꾼다
아버지, 비에 묻는다 내 단단한 각오들은 어디로 갔을까?
번들거리는 검은 유리창, 와이셔츠 흰빛은 터진다
미친 듯이 소리친다, 빌딩 속은 악몽조차 젖지 못한다
물들은 집을 버렸다! 내 눈 속에는 물들이 살지 않는다


Some expressions may sound unidiomatic (sentences passing “on” the water, not “through” water), but that is what the poet exactly intended even in Korean. Many of his poems are abrupt, unconventional, and spontaneous, yet deliberate and skillful. He was definitely a poet who would’ve influenced Korean literature, had he been alive longer.

Check Ki’s other poems in translation:

Worried about Mom

Empty House

Jealousy is My Power

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