Gloom deeply tightens sky’s throat.
From dream’s embrace spun out
a glance of a ghost in sleepless woe.
Wild willow casting black shadow
slashed by lines of heavy rain
weeping slanting spells.

Loosening her jet-black hair,
someone’s daughter cries in departure.
When bugs pulse after molting,
an ocean of dark blood. An old tree’s cave.
A woodpecker
tapping in, tapping in.


어둡게 깊게 목메인 하늘.
꿈의 품속으로서 구러나오는
애달피 잠 안오는 유령의 눈결.
그림자검은 개버드나무에
쏟아쳐 나리는 비의 줄기는
흐느껴 빗기는 주문(呪文)의 소리.

시커먼 머리채 풀어헤치고
아우성하면서 가시는 따님.
헐벗은 벌레들은 꿈틀일 때,
흑혈의 바다. 고목동굴.
쪼아리는 소리, 쪼아리는 소리.

Kim Sowol (1902-1934) was born in North Pyongan Province. In high school, he met his lifetime mentor, Kim Ok, a poet and translator who opened a new chapter in Korean poetry by translating European symbolist and imagist poetry into Korean. With Kim Ok’s help, Sowol was able to publish his first book of poetry, Jindallae Flower, in 1925. However, he was unable to find an audience for his poetry, nor was he able to find a way out of his extreme poverty. He is said to have died of a brain aneurysm while taking opium to treat his gout, though suspicions of suicide have lingered.

Jack Jung is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His translations of Korean poet Yi Sang’s poetry and prose are published in Yi Sang: Selected Works by Wave Books. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Davidson College.