When I saw on an X-ray film
the bones that hold up my body,
they seemed not at all to be mine.
The fractured rib was not
made of stainless steel
or of plastic
but neither was it the rafters
of a God-given soul.
Dust of anchovies and eels
piling up over a few dozen years,
hardening and growing into bones
that I have never once seen
and ahve taken too much for granted.
Everything made of dust,
gathered together and hardened,
sometime or other cracks, breaks,
and is finally smashed back into dust.
The bones that hold up my body too
will turn at last to dust
and after drifting like snow-flakes through space
will one day pile up again.
My fractured rib too,
sometime or other will twirl
here and there as dust no longer mine
and be quite unable to remember anything
of my pain.
These bones will break and leave me.
In the bustling market and streets too
no one stays very long.
All hurry past and vanish
and between the gaunt but lingering trees
the wind comes blowing.
It too belongs to no one.
Kim Kwang-Kyu was born in Seoul in 1941 and studied German language and literature at Seoul National University. Although he had discovered a talent for writing as a teenager, he did not begin to write poetry until he was in his mid-thirties. His first published poems appeared in the review Munhak kwa chisong in 1975, the same year in which he published Korean translations of poems by Heinrich Heine and Günter Eich. In 1979 his first volume of poems, The Last Dream to Affect Us, was published but virtually suppressed due to the political tensions surrounding the assassination of the president that year. Since 1980, he has been a professor in the German department of Hanyang University (Seoul) and he has published translations of poems by Bertolt Brecht and Günter Eich. He has received a number of major Korean literary prizes for his poetry. In 1994, he was awarded the Pyonun Literary Prize. In recent years, he has been actively engaged in promoting literary exchanges between Korea and Germany.
Brother Anthony of Taizé is an educator and translator of Korean literature who has lived in Seoul since 1980. He began to translate modern Korean literature in 1988, beginning with poems by Ku Sang. He has published 25 volumes of translations, and he has edited several anthologies of Korean literature. In October 2008 he was awarded the Ok-gwan (jade crown) Order of Merit for Culture (Munhwa Hunjang) by the Korean government. In September 2010 he was appointed a Chair-Professor at Dankook University.
Original text: "Ppyeo" ("Bones") was originally published in Huirnihan yetsarangui geurirnja. Seoul: Munhakgwabipyeongsa. 1988.