six poems from kim sowol’s azaleas
translated from the korean by david r. mccann
adapted by jason francisco

my house

at the base of a distant hill, at the edge of a field, hard by the shore of the broad sea—
i’ll build it, my own house, and put a wide road in front—
those who go by, some might stop in, then go on alone—
the day will turn dark at the rise of the white rapids—
i’ll stand at the gate and i’ll wait, and shadows will grow lighter—
dawn birds will cry, and the day will turn bright and still—
the morning will come sparkling, and i’ll look at each one who passes, and wonder—
might it be you?  might it be?

the sea

where are the waters
whose waves pulse, rise, fall, swell—
as the seaweed grows red?

where are the waters
whose fishermen lie in their boats—
singing songs of love and chance?

where are the waters
whose skies die gently at twilight—
cobalt from grey from cool black?

where are the waters
whose wandering birds build flocks—
more massive as they recede into distances?

where are the waters
i would cross over, without a thought—
the last sea without land on the other side?

one who came

as i became older
the one who kept out of sight,
the one who hid in dreams—
she came again.

her face was flush, as before.
her fingers were long and thin,
and she lay in my arms as always—
calm and unmoving.

between us there is only silence.

suddenly she rises
like the sound of birds’ wings fluttering,
and a tousled awareness of myself
takes her place.

in the brightness of day
i am left with my mistakes.
anyone  on the roadside—even you—
might be her.

cock’s crow

it’s that you’re gone—
that’s why i hear the cock crowing—

it’s that night deepens, and sleep departs—
that’s why i can’t reach into dreams—

the hurt is the hurt, that’s all—
but why the pain at living?—

where the dawn shadows lie scattered—
that’s where i walk the grassy fields—


spring rain

petals fall
and the flowers they leave—expressionless,
this is how the spring passes.

rain falls
and the sky that remains—also expressionless,
and nothing in my heart.

branches grow green,
i know this is true—and clouds,
they pass over a day gone by.

dusk and sweet rain,
they both come to a stop—and my heart,
its tasks begin only after.



when it rose, dimly, the half-moon—
when it climbed over the sky—
the wind also rose, and the evening was cold.
the sun sank into clear waves.

dark and darker, the grassless fields—
when they darkened, a cold fog rose, and hovered—
winter turns over in my body.
the weight of my years presses down.

when it finally passed, love took the whole heart—
youth fell completely to old age—
all faces were pale in the evening light.
everyone saw the leaves that the dark brambles dropped.