Jake Levine Translating Kim Kyung Ju

The Rhythm of Falling Snow

Around dusk, falling snow resembles village lights that quietly blow in every room.
It looks as if each flake of snow carries around a different piece of time.
And now that I have made eye contact with each silent moment
It seems every person misses their own eyes the most.
                                                                                                January 26, 2004

Abandoned with the lid open
inside the rice pot it snows.
The rhythm of snow
is piling on the bottom of the pot.
Something like the piece of a baby mouse’s broken tooth
returns late at night, shivers
and scratches the floor of the pot.
Something like the place a spoon scraped
is splattered across the bottom of a fake silver pot.

I do not know the violent temperature
that could have reversed thousands of times
inside the chronicle of the pot.
Maybe, like pine resin getting fat
when ricewater escapes, gub-gub
and becomes the ancient rhythm of the pot.
If the fever inside it dries out
the music retires its sound
but if it is night, birds also begin to be like the pot
and send down a fever
into the range of sound they cannot touch.

Inside a time feverishly flipped
after the heat of the body is completely erased
a dried life exposes itself.
A spring day is boiling alone in the room
the faint color of rice water.

The Room That Flies to Outer Space 1

While pushing the room, I go to space.
One by one, the basement rooms inside the ground rise like ballons and fly away. Every night the room that flies to the outside of space is lonely. It says, Human, I’m hungry.

Carrying thousands of people’s mud huts, the earth flying in space. In that room, to compose the smallest letter on earth, cast the parts of you that are pink in wax. Like embers that wander around, shivering inside the soundness of my mind, the whistle that departs my lips emits the smell of the North Pole. Inside the heart, thousands of square feet stand ready for cultivation. The only way things that don’t belong to this world learn to harass this world is by achieving a lonely state.
Loneliness means lying on the floor and listening to the sound of your two eyes. Loneliness is the time it takes to understand the music of your body. Therefore loneliness is the amount of love it takes to understand one life in its entirety. From behind, for his entire life, my dad slept embracing my sick mom. So it’s true—no music is listened to with a clear state of mind.

A swing swept off the earth floating in space. During the time human sleep goes to space, I fly out the room. I swing. The technique of suspending myself can only be achieved when someone carries a fever inside their body long enough for an aria in the string of G to flow out my eyes. Drop, drop, while I dust sleep off.

Every night, while pushing out the room, I go to space.

The Room That Flies to Outer Space 4

                         dry river

He got a new room.

While the silence inside water slowly dries out

he drags shadows from the middle of the air

to the top of the water

in the shape of dusk.

On the dried floor, leftover clumps of grass

shred, riding the wind.

After realizing he is the place from where it was first blown

from the open mouth, departing

a whistle of some stutterer abandoned here.

When night falls, shadows raised from the floor

float into a fog on the face of the water.

On a day like that, through the receiver of the phone

the sound of mom’s crying voice resembles a girl you love.

Realizing fog is only what water dreams, he cut down his speech.

Sitting on top of the roof, he watched the water fly away.

After a few golden letters pass, when morning comes

on the islands where they used to dip their bodies in the water

black birds we can’t see sit down on the floor and sleep.

Descending wooden stairs into the water

he asked several questions to God.

Then, like netted fish

all the rooms that used to be on the river floor

are suddenly released.

The Room That Flies to Outer Space 5

for the window, a wish to never go extinct

Window 1
My brother sent a letter. It said he quit painting and became a bus driver. Because their assholes get stuck, people pour hot water from plastic bowls toward the whining dogs in the alley. With a cloth I use to wipe the floor, I wipe the eyes of the dog I raised. Even when it gets dark, the girls with duct tape over their mouths don’t stop jumping rope. Every time they jump, their bodies disappear a little more in the air. Even in the day, bats carrying their babies open their mouths and fly away.

Window 2
The virgin boddhittsava that is stuffed in a tiny room left the house at one time or another. All day long smelling her armpit, the boddhittsava sits on a chair slowly smoking a cigarette. In our neighborhood a rumor got spun about a man coming and going from the window of the boddhittsava’s house. Every night from the third story of the house that smells of cotton flower, a paper plane was thrown by a thin wrist that hangs outside like a dead branch.

Window 3
At night a young priest presses his face against the window and watches dreams glide into the rooms of humanity. Father, don’t throw me away. In the middle of the street a nun takes off her panties and stuffs them in the mouth of a dead saint. Every night I hear cries like a cat come from the room with the blue light where the priest and nun go to sleep. I cover my mouth with my hands. I watch my brother’s painting. Old moms fog the window with their breath, take their fingers, and draw multiplication tables on the glass. Hey kids, now I remember my multiplication well. Dad, don’t forget me.

Window 4
Someone presses 114 and asks to be rescued. Someone presses 114 and says I’m really sorry. Someone presses 114 and says a UFO is coming. Someone presses 114 and weeps, one of these days we really have to meet. Someone presses 114 and asks can we talk just a little bit. Someone presses 114 and says we will go our entire lives without seeing each other’s face. Someone presses 114 and says in this city that’s just the way it is. A mute presses 114 and practices calling his name thousands of times. Someone presses 114 and silently sends a cry without a face. Believing that the phone call is always recorded, to make a fossil of its cries, the window quietly presses 114 into the dark.

Window 5
The definition of extinction is when the sound of a species disappears.

I will not go extinct.

Jake Levine Translating Kim Kyung Ju

Kim Kyung Ju is one of the most decorated and popular younger writers in Korea. His first volume of poetry, I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, has sold over 20,000 copies. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, essays, and translation. Additionally, his poetic-dramas have been performed in Seoul and New York.

Jake Levine is currently getting a PhD in Comparative Literature at Seoul National University. He is an editor at Spork Press and is the author of two chapbooks, The Threshold of Erasure (Spork Press), and Vilna Dybbuk (Country Music). He's from Tucson.