Issue 1 Poetry

“Washing a Myna” and Four Poems – Hwang Inchan

“Washing a Myna” and Four Poems

By Hwang Inchan
Translated by Jae Hyung Woo


An Apologetic Mind

I was in deep sorrow last winter I ate some cold rice dipped in seaweed soup I will never do it again

I often get confused

What should I do with seaweed stuck to a spoon should I pull it off with my mouth or put it back in the soup

I am sorry
I am writing this with such feeling


Today I opened my eyes early for the first time in many days
It is snowing outside the window

The seaweed swells more than I expected somehow it saddens me when I press out the water

Often I cannot believe it

People pushing through the snow out there
also have lives of their own they are born before I know it
and die before I know it

I am the only one in the kitchen

Next thing I know, white rice is soaking in the water

……I am sorry

I was in deep sorrow last winter there were many things that happened at my relative’s cottage but I will not say more about it

Sorrow is said to be kin to life I read this in a book then life must be kin to sorrow somehow I feel sorry when I think of this kin

A woman’s voice tells me that steam is to be discharged

For breakfast I have white rice and seaweed soup with beef
White rice in seaweed soup is very delicious and really hot

I waited some time to let it cool down
but it is now completely cold

Some thickened fat is floating white on the soup

I do not grow sad anymore
I am very sorry



Washing a Myna

This book deals with how a person who loves a bird
should handle a bird

A light extends from an unrealistically clear scene outside the window shines
on a pair of paddy birds put in as an illustration

The library is so quiet that even flipping a page
feels like discourtesy
I handle the book like a young bird

“Birds rarely smell. Birds clean themselves so you don’t have to wash them.”

Unwittingly I read out loud
Why is it that
I picked up this book when I don’t even have a bird

“But if the water splashes in all directions, it’s better to cover the cage with things like plastic bags or wrap.”

Beyond the long corridor I saw the streets were wet


Last night I was told, you’re so human
But I still love you, I said so


A Speech on the Table

Wangsimni becomes Miari and the light entering a car window becomes Oxford shirts and a stroller becomes a limping dog

And the shoulder where a sleeping person rests becomes somber last stop
and the old tree becomes a metaphor for home

Can it be true that that’s living

The way back is a neighborhood that I don’t know And the passerby in the park is a light for the lake

And all the thoughts I had while lying in the living room every night
are forgotten in sleep

It’s so strange

There are only things I know when I go out the door but there are only happenings that I don’t know when I go out the door

That’s what you shouted, standing on a chair one evening
The only worry I had was that

you might fall off the chair

Such was our daily lives,
and now there was nothing to write about other than those



A New Experience

I put a young bird back to the branch it fell off Knowing that the birds on the branch would all fly away

But this poem is not about love
Or about darkness or humans or even about beauty

The young bird looks a bit confused I bet it will fly away soon The sun sets while I think so

Last night I was told, you’re so human
But I still love you, I said so

This poem is not about sadness Or about loneliness of the evening or bird’s flapping of wings or even about the feeling after farewell

“Sorry, I think I’ll be late. Go stay somewhere warm”
I could hear somebody talking and

Suddenly the streetlight was on
I look around to see if there’s someone watching but there is no one




I spent the winter at my relative’s cottage There were many good things that happened there At times when sadness came by I walked the forest trail But here I won’t speak of what happened back then

Rather I want to talk about a certain geometry, about the dying of a heart, about the moment when architecture breaks

This poem begins from the last day I spent with him last summer

“Come on out, there is a honeycomb here!”
When he shouted from outside, I was sitting in the living room A midday glow rushed into the unlit living room and made several patterns swirl on the floor
“What should we do? Should we drop it?”
He asked but I didn’t answer The honeycomb is small now but it grows bit by bit If left untouched something serious will happen he said But what that something is neither he nor I know
For a long time he doesn’t come back Isn’t he scared of bees at all They fly busily around the honeycomb and the hexagonal rooms are densely packed and when I was about to feel scared from not hearing his voice at some point
“But they say if bees disappear humankind will become extinct”
I remember him saying with a serious look when he returned

I think summer ended around then

When two people who set their two feet in summer’s valley came down the mountain barefoot,
when they tried to raise the temperature of a dying bird late afternoon,
when they fell asleep staring into the ceiling of a dark living room because the beds were all wet after leaving the windows open,

Or at some moment in the summer day,
The mind seems to have ceased

I just wanted to speak of the moment when the mind which began with summer ended with summer But it’s quite difficult to know exactly when that happened and

I’m alive even though the mind has ceased

Walking the forest trail I remembered him eventually breaking the honeycomb The more I walked the darker the trail became
and sometimes I could hear certain sounds

And this poem ends with a scene where I die after a long while

It’s a beautiful winter then
And I’m still at my relative’s cottage

It’s tranquil because the thick pile of snows absorbs all sound
The world is just full of empty honeycombs

It felt like I had such a dream

Originally published in Washing a Mynah. November 2012.


Hwang Inchan

Hwang Inchan was born in 1988 in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province. His first poem appeared in Hyundae Munhak in 2010. He has published two collections of poetry Washing a Mynah and Heejee’s World.
Washing a Mynah won the 31st Kim Su-young Literary Award in 2012.

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