13th Gwangju Biennale — Minds Rising Spirits Tuning

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Asphyxiation / Heart’s Exile

By Kim Hyesoon

Day Forty-Six

Hence breath
Then breath
Next breath
Subsequent breath
Because breath
Such breath
And breath
Same breath
Thereafter breath
Thus breath
Always breath
Eventually breath
Perpetually breath
Yet breath
However breath
Therefore breath
In spite of breath
Breath till the bitter end

Death breathes and you dream but

it’s time to remove the ventilator from death
it’s time to shatter the dream with a hammer


Hearts Exile
Day Forty-Seven

Who’s drawing up the water inside your body?

Who’s having sex inside your body?

Outside the window a man’s and a woman’s shoes
plop plop plop plop down

(Did you know that
our existence is lumped together by the sound of our weeping?)

Who’s playing the pipe organ inside you?

Who’s shivering in the mud inside you?

Who’s heaving up water beneath the rock layers inside you?

(The woman silently walking on the roof of a certain century
cradles her pregnant belly
and rests for a moment on the terrace
The lenses made of tears caress the window)


* Translation by Don Mee Choi


Kim Hyesoon (b. 1955, Uljin, South Korea, based in Seoul, South Korea) is one of the most influential contemporary poets of South Korea. She received her Ph.D. in Korean Literature from Konkuk University and began as a poet in 1979 with the publication of ‘Poet Smoking a Cigarette’ and four other poems in “Literature and Intellect.” She received the prestigious Midang Literature Award (2006), and Kim Su-yong Literature Award (1996) among many others, and she is the first South Korean recipient of Griffin Poetry Prize (2019) with “Autobiography of Death” (2016). Kim’s collections include: “From another star” (1981), “Father’s scarecrow” (1985), “The Hell of a certain star” (1987), “Our negative picture” (1991), “My Upanishad, Seoul” (1994), “A Poor Love Machine” (1997), “To the Calendar Factory Manager” (2000), “A Glass of Red Mirror” (2004), “Your First” (2008), “Blossom, Pig” (2016), and “Wing Phantom Pain” (2019).