Featured Issue 7 Poetry

Selected Poems – Kim Hak Jung

Selected Poems

By Kim Hak Jung

Translated by Eugene Kim

A mural


Nobody believed the wall existed until the blind man fell against it. They noticed it was there only when he scattered himself to paint a mural


The mural was beautiful. The rough stroke looked like the man had weaved the inside and outside of the wall. The dazzle felt as if the wall was glowing on its own. His painting, where colourful threads twirled in a mixture, was like a heart leaping out of the wall. It was unknown

if the beauty belonged to the wall or the mural. People complained of nausea and

dizziness. They discussed the wall, felt pain and joy, and started ripping the mural from it. Paint fell into pieces. Those who gathered in front of it fell into pieces


People noticed the wall was there only when they grabbed the debris. Nobody questioned who painted it. They just called him the blind. Given by those who failed to call him. It was-

A name that was not a name

They shared the wall

But they couldn’t see it. Through the pieces,

they just shared a name.

Genesis 5: the map of the dead sea


For a long time, in this city

there has been a legend of a mapmaker

who disappeared with the map he drew

The citizen believed he’d become a blind god


The castellan ordered him to draw a new map

of the city

as he was who first completed the map of the


He unfolded the ancient map in his room

to find the names of the streets and alleys

given by the natives

The castellan was determined to demolish all

the districts and build broadways

This entire city will turn into a decent place,

The castellan’s excited voice lingered in his ears

He grabbed the pen to cross out the section of

houses standing in a row

and marked out an extensive line of the city

This is like drawing a small sea

His murmur vacuumed the alleys of the city

that day

A rampant flame shed light on his window

but he went on drawing the map in ignorance

That day, his eyes went blind


Nobody dwells on a map

We all know that

But his map let people dwell

The more he made progress, the more

disappeared from the city

They may have been buried somewhere in the

city without a grave

with no trace on the map

Knowing that his time was coming to an end

he relied on his cloudy vision

to draw the colossal buildings and temples that

were yet unbuilt

After arranging the section for the new town

he named the broadways as the castellan


to complete the map ahead of the castellan’s

grand plan

When the map was ready

he could no longer see it

There was nothing, and nobody left

Only his bright ears heard his weeping

This is like a drawing of a small sea

When his hands flipped the map

he found a ground for a man to step on;

a void ground.

He then slowly stood up on his hands

feeling the ground gently waving.

The ground was a dead sea

Someone was calling someone in the tides

As the map disappeared, the survivors went out

on the street

The castellan couldn’t find the mapmaker’s final

work after all

He only saw a giant piece of a white sheet

In front of it, he died in rage


There was a god who drew a disappeared map

People called it the map of the dead sea

My dream is to be an astronaut

They say everyone must rely on others in space

and everyone needs help from others in that

state of weightlessness

Otherwise, you can get lost

Those with troubled bodies

can march on without having to walk

if they are in space, in a spacesuit

My low vision might make me wander a bit

but the vast space is full of darkness

and the light that crosses it

I should be fine as there is no such thing as

an obstacle.

In space, we are all astronauts

No one is called disabled

It’s natural to call for help

And it never gets overcrowded

My semi-basement rent apartment

could get far loftier than a ceiling

I may even let others whose body is as big as

my class captain

move into my room to stay with me

Others like ground

But I like space

My dream is to be an astronaut, being away

from the earth

The logbook of my home

No unusual changes are detected in the current location. Luckily, the deep sea is serene today. Here we are inside a midget submarine, Home, that has the size of a semi-basement apartment. I am the sonar operator on night duty currently writing this log. Fish are christened by starlights from the galaxy, fast asleep. Space is listening to the sleep talks of the fish while exploring the sea. The sonar of the stars is still warm. The temperature of the sea is still cold—other submarines transit in silence. We run silent as being alive is our word for greeting. We don’t record any and don’t leave any, but that’s how a submarine operates. The irresponsible captain hasn’t returned yet. The crew members have been all safe for years without him. A brutal battle occasionally occurs when a loan shark fleet called something Capital launches a cruise missile toward us. Once a firm pressure nearly smashed the entire ship in an unexpected sea area, but we’ve survived. I am a crew member of the submarine that doesn’t give up. Even in the moment of triumph, I only let out a silent scream of joy. Sometimes I want to raise a periscope to escape the bottom, but the surface is yet too far. Every day, in the infinite cold sea, I keep this log for the future. The current location: a day. A day. That’s the end of today’s log.

The bare text

I once found a text hidden in a bookmark. It was a text of lips that didn’t reach anyone who had kissed the dust on the page. The lips that wrote no words. Breath was the beginning. What I kissed was

The sound of the kisses where the beginning has come to narrate a clandestine dance on the lips

too thin

and too bare to get conquered

And in the sound I saw. People in chains. Those who were one and lots at the same time. Left in darkness and turned into the same skin. Sometimes they turned into each other to kiss away from the watchers. We mustn’t get caught. This is our story. Our time. The story, from mouth to mouth, firmly sealed, got close to the bottom. The sound of their bodies came close to their kisses, moving between the floors. The reticent text waved and moved from here to there. The watchers forced them to open their mouths, but the search was futile. Those dragged away by the watchers never came back. Your friends died with their lips tore down, said the watchers, but the kiss continued. The lips aged with wrinkles as they fought back the tears for the departed. The chains trailed along and made noises, but the text continued. We mustn’t get caught. The text has lived. The lips of an empty text that has recorded the persistent presence of the chain. The dance of the chain that has succeeded through the lips. A person and the other that the dance has shaped. The text of a person. It’s you. You came from floor to floor, in the form of the floor sound, up to here, escaping from shackles. Because it’syou

This is where we start again.

The lips where we start.

My lips get close to the floor.

No one in the library would find out

who had left this text here.

So it will be left here

as far as no one finds out.

I put my lips here together to tuck them into

the text.

Even if it is just a dance that arrives,

even if it can’t change anything,

The text hides and continues.

Colours around you

The street

is a forehead

where lights shower through the horizon

or it is a colour around you

that flicker, and flicker, waiting for other colours

to rise

I turn my back to see you on the street

And there I see a distance

A distance of my longing for you

The more deeply I find you, with more layers

you appear

knocking on my heart

The floor is too bright

to hold the light’s temperature

It gets brighter, brighter with rustles

as your footsteps untie the rhythms of secret

The street shines with the colours that shine

The shining summer

The shining part of me

The shine that doesn’t possess

Now, in the street

where my hands brush your hair

I see a long colour softly falling on you

Everything here is nothing but your surrounding

I still don’t know how I call you

but when you walk to me in a summer light

your smile rings in my mind to hint at your name

It spreads

and unfolds

Maybe I can touch you if I reach behind my


Maybe you don’t know, but the colours around

you are you

Playing with the time that hasn’t followed us

you, with your footsteps

come close, close to me

Our moments once rise for beauty

and fall in the very moments

growing faint into the tone of the street

Just like that, a light

ascends to the sky

being you.


Kim Hak Jung is a Korean poet born with low vision. Born and trained to be a poet in Seoul, he received a PhD in Korean Literature from Kyung Hee University. In his first collection of poetry, titled Genesis, Kim explores the horizon of disability by drawing attention to scenes of mundane. Kim’s poems have been highly acclaimed since his debut- he is the 18th Park In-hwan award winner. He has also published a poetry collection for teenagers, titled A submarine that doesn’t give up.

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