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Park Kyong-Mi

chima chogori
A Cat Comes Carrying Her Cat Baby in Her Mouth (Still, still continuing)
A Cat Comes Carrying Her Cat Baby in Her Mouth: VI

 



chima chogori

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

 

There, I sensed a chima waver

(thereís a person in chima chogori).

In the dusty space in an underground path in Shinjuku

where people were coming and going randomly

the chima, having inhaled a great deal of air, had ballooned.

Though for a very brief while I stared at it.

Though for a very long while I stopped walking

and made sure of the profile of the person

who smartly passed by

in the crowd.

 

It was an indigo

chima chogori.

 

The white collar

showed the nape of her neck sharply,

the chest of the

chima chogori brimmed with breath,

had something that moved,

had something that bounced,

which as it was untied

started to spill,

started to melt,

its warm, painful core remaining as it was,

its fragrance in my memory beautiful,

it was a feeling I had as I looked,

seemed like a very brief while,

seemed like a very long while,

and so I remembered.

 

Just looking at the words Korean dress Iíd get mad

Iíd look askance at any Japanese who said chima chogori are wonderful

I wouldnít walk with my grandmother in her chima chogori [1]

 

The indigo

chima chogori

for a very long while

finding it interesting, mouth agape

 

You are always me

 

___

1. In one of her essays, Park recalls her paternal grandmotherís visit from Jeju Island in the early 1970s and recoiling from her dress as something ďKoreanĒ and alien. Itsumo Tori ga tondeiru, p. 15

 

 

 

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A Cat Comes Carrying her Cat Baby in her Mouth (Still, still continuing1)

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

 

Yes, letís pull the curtain shut.

Yes, it will embarrass me.

All of me watched.

Oh, no, I donít like it, Iím in my muslin nightgown

worn-out, shiny.

Your shiny bald pate.

I caressed it for you.

Your joke.

Can see through it.

Your excretion.

Itís about time.

I can see it.

Find it.

I can see it.

Find it.

I squatted in the toilet

and it found me. I pulled the door of the window and I saw the ground, like that. The sun was shining on it, or was it? I wonder. The toilet is at the back of the house, itís omewhat dark, even during daytime. Large leaves coming out of a stout stalk, just at my eye level. They were thick leaves and the leaf veins looked as though carved into them. I being small, I stared, concentrating. Because, you see, I sensed something. Because, you see, oh, oh, it was a large caterpillar. Whaaaaatís that? It was glued to the back of a leaf, I swallowed my saliva. The sound of my own pee surrounding, surrounding, surrounding me, I had to stay still.

The caterpillar was brocade,

the leaf yellow-green,

the flower in a pink tassel brilliant,

yes. It was midsummer, wasnít it? No matter how hot it was, it was chilly in the toilet in the old days, you know. Even the smell of the dark earth pushed up against you. It was different from the smell that enveloped you even when you pinched your nose. Different. That was the smell of Youíre watched, youíre watched. Spooky. I donít like that. The caterpillar started to move, shaking its head a bit. Yes, it was moving. It was gaining momentum. It was crunching, crunching on the leaf. When I was making the sound of peeing! What a scene!

Where a round

hole was made

only the leaf veins remained, brittly,

I held my breath, stared,

then

there was the sound of water

then

I turned the faucet and let the water flow. You got to wash your hands after you pee. The water exploded on the tin sink, going down, exploding. Splatter, splatter, it began like a miniature gong or a drum, and then, suddenly, suddenly, itís like someone crying, waaaah, waaaah! A baby? My kid brother? Waaaah, waaaah, waaaah, waaaah! Doesnít stop crying! It is somebody! He wants to pee! You must take care of him, quick! Mo-other!

I called

and called

but mother didnít come.

I wonder if Iíll come to witness your last moments.

Routines are tough.

A snow-white cloth is cruel

on something thatís turned sour.

In the first place the starch is too strong, too hard to absorb.

So I have this hidden with me.

Itís what you forgot.

Itís a handkerchief, Iíve washed it many times.

How often has it gone through the water?

I will gently wipe the soil off you with it.

Now you need to worry no more.

Now you can just wait.

Look, it touches your skin so softly.

Iíve done this to survive

quietly, patiently, leisurely.

 

 

 

__________

1. A sequence of poems with the same title.

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A Cat Comes Carrying her Cat Baby in her Mouth: VI

Translated from the Japanese by Hiroaki Sato

 

Stay in good health

Stay in good health

Stay in good health

 

Iíd like you to stop that now. You say that too many times I think I wonít be able to see you any more. Thatís it. Thatís where my big brother and I differ in our thinking. I wonder if you could stop saying ďstay in good health.Ē Donít you think, sister?

 

I donít regret it

I donít go back

From when, you say,

From when, you say

 

How can I tell you that? Today Iíd like to take a bus, Iíd like to walk the Ginza to my heartís content, Iíd like to buy a shortcake there, and I may have a promise to meet someone, oh, no. Had I said all this to you before? Am I repeating myself? Yes, I am repeating myself. All this happened a long, long time ago. I was simply longing for you.

 

See that? Floating up there in the sky

is my big brother who didnít return from the South Seas.

He let a balloon go in the sky and that was it. Whereís he now?

íCause we got along with each other very well.

I wanted to talk with him once again.

I wanted to have a leisurely talk with him.

Yes, yes.

I am selfish,

I can enjoy a whole shortcake all by myself,

and, yes, it is expensive. Itís special, you know.

Feel free to share it with me, please.

Yes, you do it as you usually do.

First, you slice it straight,

and cut it apart crosswise.

On the tea-table the horns of the milky-white creamís reflected aglow, it enchants me. Held between the stages of sponge cake are the cream and slices of strawberry, held repeatedly, itís marvelous. It must be putting its soft cheek against the slippery skin of the white porcelain. So puffy. Iíd like to use that, the fork, dexterously, but Iím conscious of that personís eyes and my hand trembles. I bring it to my mouth hastily and both the cream and strawberry fall and I scoop them up again. Each time I put the fork into it, the stages of the sponge cake fall apart. The bright red of the strawberry seeps lightly into the cream and dyes it. Itís sweet-sour, isnít it? Our forks clink, clink, is that because they are hitting the plate? No, no, itís just that the clock on the post struck. Almost simultaneously with him, I look up at it, the clock on the post. It tick-tocks and itís past eight oíclock. Itís sweet-sour, isnít it?

 

Tick-tock.

What do you think?

Youíre lying to me.

What do you think?

Things like sixth sense donít work.

What do you think?

Youíre so hasty.

Where are you going?

My clog-thong may be loose, I said,

but did he hear that? I wonder.

Oh, heís already gone now.

If you make it to nine thirty-five, it will be all right.

 

 

 

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Born to Korean parents in Tokyo in 1956. Park studied English at Tokyo Metropolitan University and has translated Gertrude Stein (The World Is Round, Geography and Plays). She published her first book of poems, Suupu (Soup), in 1980, and her second, Sono Ko (That Girl), in 2003. She began studying Korean in her late teens and became increasingly attracted to various manifestations of traditional Korean culture, such as weaving, lute-playing, and dancing. She describes such interests in many of her short essays collected in Itsumo Tori ga Tonndeiru (Birds Are Always Flying), published in 2004, but rarely touches on her interactions with things Korean in her poems, at least not overtly; the first one of the three translated below, which is about the traditional Korean dress called chima jeogoro is one of the exceptions. Her poems are often characterized by disjunctive use of language as well as disjunction with the surroundings or circumstances she describes.

 

English language copyright ©2006 by Hiroaki Sato.

 


 





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