Ko Un

 

Three Poems

Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony, Young-Moo Kim

and Gary Gach

 

A Boat

 

You set

on the horizon of my mind

and for evermore

a boat is setting out between you and me.

 

A boat sets out

never to return,

never return,

never.

 

 

One Apple

 

For one month, two months, even three or four,

a man painted one apple.

And he kept on painting

 

while the apple

rotted,

dried up,

until you could no longer tell if it was an apple or what.

 

In the end, those paintings were no longer

of an apple at all.

Not paintings of apples,

 

in the end, those paintings were of shriveled things,

good-for-nothing things,

thatís all they were.

 

But the painter

gained strength, letting him know the world in which he lived.

He gained strength, letting him realize there were details

he could never paint.

 

He tossed his brush aside.

Darkness arrived,

ruthlessly trampling his paintings.

 

He took up his brush again,

to paint the darkness.

The apple was no more,

but starting from there

emerged paintings of all that is not apple.

 

 

An Empty Field

 

Donít ask why.Why?

Donít ask.

Sometimes itís silly to ask.

 

The sky asks no questions.

Yet whatís blue is still blue.

 

The blazing cold is past,

everythingís white, and smelling of milk.

With everything

becoming one like this,

all one world

and the ground thawing out,

no questions hang in the haze.

 

Two or three old women are back

out in the fields.

What should they ask? What reply?

 

Dandelions are out already,

celandines too Ė

the cowslips are out

with bindweed, tumbleweed,

lady smock, as well.

Buttercups are out.

Bluebells, too.

Early spring

sunset.

 

 

English language translation copyright ©2006 by Green Integer, Brother Anthony, Young-Moo Kim and Gary Gach.

____

Ko Un is perhaps Koreaís most noted contemporary poet. He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize and was a serious contender in the 2005 selection. In 2005 Green Integer published selections from his noted on-going volumes of poetry, One Thousand Lives. In 2006 Green Integer will publish a large collection of selected poems, Songs for Tomorrow: Poems 1961-2001.