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If I shut my mouth and shut my mouth
and clasp it in my dripping hands
and throw it with my utmost strength,
blood will boil and flames will wrap
the world, a cauldron locked in heat,
but I, so rash, will gain nothing, they say,
so I shut my mouth and shut my eyes
while everything melts,
while everything fades,
lest gold and stone alike become ash
and foes meet foes once more in hell—
silence, silence! For my suffering and pain.


Let me spit the crystals freezing in my chest,
cover the creek, seal it with a lid,
shroud rivers and hills alike in white,
crumple the sky, earth, whatever this may be
into one blue bundle of fury and hate,
and roll in my palm a solid ball of
silence, silence! And ice again.

Korean Vr.

침묵 (沈默)

입을 다물어 입을 다물어
두 손에 칠칠 넘치도록 덤뻑 집어 쥐고
무엇을 향해 기껏 던져버리면
피가 끓어오르는 곳 불길이 내리덮는 곳
이 천하(天下)는 끓는 가마 속 되련만
본래(本來) 취(取)할 점(點) 없던 빙충맞은 것이라기에
입을 다물고 눈을 감아버리고
모든 것이 녹아들고
모든 것이 사라질 틈에
금과 돌이 다 같이 재 될까 봐
원수(怨讐)와 원수 또다시 지옥(地獄)에 만날까 봐
침묵! 침묵! 괴로움의 아픔의

가슴에 치밀어오르는 굳은 얼음을 뿜어
냇물에 뚜껑 덮고
강(江)과 산(山)을 똑같이 흰옷 입히고
하늘인지 땅인지 시퍼렇게 뭉개서
이 분노(憤怒) 이 증오(憎惡) 손에 쥔 대로
단단히 뭉치어서
침묵! 침묵! 얼음의 또다시

Kim Myŏng-sun (1896–1951) was modern Korea’s first published woman writer, the first Korean woman poet to publish a full-length volume of poetry, as well as a prolific novelist, essayist, playwright, and translator. She authored two poetry collections, The Fruit of Life (Hansŏng Tosŏ Chusik Hoesa, 1925) and A Lover's Gift (Hoedong Sŏgwan, c.1930). She wrote about nature, female desire, patriarchal violence, and her own experiences of sexual assault and systemic abuse in 1910s–30s colonial Korea. In 1939, she emigrated to Japan, where she passed away in a psychiatric hospital in 1951.


Eunice Lee (she/her) is a poet and translator who was born in New York and raised near Seoul. Her translations of Korean poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in The Margins, Asymptote, chogwa, Columbia Journal, Azalea: Journal of Korean Literature & Culture, and more. She tweets @euniceyoonalee.

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