우체국을 나서면 아직 태어나지 않은 음악처럼 | When I leave the post office, I’m like unborn music
April 28, 2023
세상엔 너무 많은 이름이 있어
그보다 더 많은 영혼이 있어
울고 싶은 여자야
침묵에 빠진 골목들을 스카치테이프처럼 서랍에 가득 쌓아두었습니다
종일 받아서 보냅니다
초록색 책상을 끌어안은 이별 전문가
팬티에 손을 넣고 길게 줄을 당겨봅니다
나에겐 빨간 포장끈처럼 붉은 핏줄
상의도 없이 이별의 의무를 다하는 기관들이 몸속에 가득합니다
나는 지금 흰 눈의 흰색은 배송하고 혼자 남아
옷깃을 적시는 물방울과 싸우고 있습니다
우체국을 나서면 아직 태어나지 않은 음악처럼
고인의 안경처럼 아무것도 아닌 여자야
눈발이 우체통 위에 하얀 손가락 마디를 자꾸만 썰어 놓고 갑니다
우체국 여자의 혈압과 맥박은 돌돌 말린 종이 위로 계속해서 출력되어 나오고
발송이란 팻말을 비석처럼 세우고
그 아래 종일토록 앉아 있습니다
죄송하지만 다 보내드리고 퇴근하겠습니다
“우체국 여자 (Postwoman)”
from Phantom Pain Wings (날개 환상통)
Copyright © 2019 by Kim Hyesoon
Originally published in 2019 by Moonji Publishing Co., Ltd.
All rights reserved.
There are so many names in the world
and more souls than names
I feel like crying
I keep silent streets in my drawer like rolls of Scotch tape
Mail arrives like grammatical particles
and I send it out all day long
I’m a farewell specialist, hugging a green desk
I put my hand in my underwear and pull on a string
My blood vessel is like a piece of red twine
My body is filled with organs that fulfill their farewell duties by themselves
At the moment I’m alone after mailing the white of the white eye
battling dew drops that wet my sleeves
When I leave the post office, I’m like unborn music
I’m nothing like the glasses the deceased are wearing
I’m the future of farewell
Snow flurries keep slicing white knuckles, leaving them on top of the mailbox
Postwoman’s blood pressure and pulse are printing out nonstop on a roll of paper
She puts up a sign, Send Mail, as if it were a tombstone
and sits beneath it all day
Sorry, I’ll leave work after I send everything away
January 31, 2021
Postwoman: In the third stanza, Kim Hyesoon (KH) lists Korean postpositions without any spaces:
The particles I chose are not exactly equivalent to Kim’s because equivalents are not easy to come by in my translation universe. They’re somewhat approximate while also very different than the postwoman who is “nothing like the glasses the deceased are wearing.” This to me is one of the genius characteristics of Kim’s poetry. Her nothingness and littleness eventually pile up to topple things—to topple power, I mean. So it’s no surprise that my universe is also filled with littleness and nothingness. I’m reminded of the lines from “I’ll Call Those Things My Cats” in Poor Love Machine (Action Books, 2016):
These adorable things. When my life gives out, they’d eat me up in a second. When it rains, they make me drag a leather sofa outdoors. They even build houses inside my nostrils. They’d even devour my elephant. They are like the stars that can’t be seen in daylight.
Grammatical particles, adorable or not, are always torturous to me. They require another kind of dictionary, not only tiny in size, but the user of the dictionary also has to be tiny enough to use it. Is this why people say translators are invisible? Although, I do love hiding. Little things usually do. While I was in Berlin, I was invisible to everyone, even dogs, except little children, as if I had entered the world of Wings of Desire. It felt glamorous to be invisible. In Seoul, the only ones who can see me are older men. One said as he passed me, “Hey lady, your sunglasses are too dark.” How creepy!
January 31, 2021
438,035 COVID-19 deaths in the US; 2,236,035 worldwide.
I revisited Sasha Dugdale’s editorial in The Great Flight: Refugee Focus issue of Modern Poetry in Translation (2016):
And what can we do, except to continue to believe in our own form of the Republic of Letters . . . a virtual and metaphysical utopia where poets of all races and places meet and share poetry? It’s a minute and fragile vision. . . .
And an interview I did with KH in Autobiography of Death (New Directions, 2018):
Why does our country make us ashamed for being alive, for surviving those tragic events? . . . I came to think that I, we are all part of the structure of death, that we remain living in it.
And I thought to myself that I needed to excavate the faceless face with language, excavate the face with the rhythm embodied in language. I came to think more fervently than ever that someone involved in such idle labor is a poet.
Little translators know how to maintain a minute and fragile vision by performing the utopic idle labor within the structure of death, through our day-to-day, inconsequential living.
“Postwoman,” by Kim Hyseoon, translated by Don Mee Choi; excerpts from “Translator’s Diary,” by Don Mee Choi; from PHANTOM PAIN WINGS, copyright © 2019 by Kim Hyesoon. Translation and “Translator’s Diary” copyright © 2023 by Don Mee Choi. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.