Homecoming Song (Translation)

I told a doctor, ‘The future is growing inside my liver.’

I have the impression that the sickness occasionally visiting me is making a home call to death in my body.

Father died of liver cancer.

A nephew texted ‘When are you coming?’

Even more than that,

is there an ingredient called ‘Uncle’ somewhere in my body? In my body is there an ingredient called ‘Son,’ an ingredient called ‘Younger Brother,’ and an ingredient called ‘Lover’? Like detecting a taste of sugar in spicy red boiling stew, is he really deciphering the sorrow simmering somewhere in my body?

Is some ingredient in my body missing you?

Come to think of it, the blood speeding around people’s bodies all life long. Perhaps people have children in order to replace this ageing track with something new.

If so, love is like constructing a new sports ground for the blood

If so, sorrow being like the workmen hired for the construction work,

perhaps sorrow has packed me in my life and is carrying me away like the waste from a building site packed in sacks.

Father died of liver cancer but when I’m drunk I feel that my soul is sloshing around inside me. My soul coagulates between my ribs, finally dissolves in the alcohol and goes flowing all round my body. Sometimes there are times when I pour out too much of it and it overflows, and then I grab hold of a telephone pole and feel like a 175cm high liquor glass adorned with limbs. Then I glance suspiciously at a plant or a dead leaf or a scrap of torn paper in a corner of an alley and feel it’s a stain of my soul I spilled. I wonder if scraps of my soul aren’t still roaming around that alley like a bird that has flown at someone then fallen fluttering to the cold ground.

Anyway, saying we got drunk together means we are sloshing at one another. Adorning ourselves with another face then colliding, clink, is to make a whirlpool in each other’s body. In which case who is that pouring out alcohol into the glass called I, dissolving my soul in it, then drinking?

Who has been treating me like a liquor glass for so long? Sometimes flitting through the air in raptures, sometimes hitting the bottom hard, who can that be barbecuing pork before my life?

About the Author:

Born in Geochang, South Gyeongsang Province, Korea, in 1974, Sin Yong-Mok received a new writers award in 2000 and has published 4 collections of poetry and a volume of prose essays. He received 4 awards for his work prior to the collection “When Someone Called Someone I Looked Back” (2017) which received the 2017 Baek Seok Award for Poetry. He is currently editor of a major Korean literary magazine and lectures about poetry in a variety of institutions.

About the translator: Brother Anthony has lived in Korea since 1980 and has published over 40 volumes of English translations of contemporary Korean poetry in addition to a considerable number of translations of Korean fiction, and other books related to Korea. He is an emeritus professor at Sogang University and a chair professor at Dankook university, and president of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch.