Ki Hyeong Do's Sad Call To His Sister - Forsythia My Forsythia (나리 나리 개나리)

Mountain Verdure

The poet Ki Hyeong Do (기형도, 1960-1989) was traumatized by his sister’s tragic death. It seems he had had a special rapport with her while growing up in a family plagued by the illness of his father. His sister may have been the bright spot for him, a nice companion whom he could converse with and confide in about his various concerns during his impressionable years. Having her murdered in cold blood one day has left him reeling with not only a bottomless sadness but an acute guilt as well. *Forsythia My Forsythia (나리 나리 개나리) is a work that lays bare this extraordinarily sad and remorseful sentiment that dogged him ever since that horrific incident. The outpouring of anguished sadness and guilt is truly heartbreaking.

나리 나리 개나리


누이여
또다시 은비늘 더미를 일으켜세우며
시간이 빠르게 이동하였다.
어느 날의 잔잔한 어둠이
이파리 하나 피우지 못한 너의 생애를
소리없이 꺾어갔던 그 투명한
기억을 향하여 봄이 왔다.

살아 있는 나는 세월을 모른다.
네가 가져간 시간과 버리고 간
시간들의 얽힌 영토 속에서
한 뼘의 폭풍도 없이 나는 고요했다.
다만 햇덩이 이글거리는 벌판을
맨발로 산보할 때
어김없이 시간은 솟구치며 떨어져
이슬 턴 풀잎새로 엉컹퀴 바늘을
살라주었다.

봄은 살아 있지 않은 것은 묻지 않는다.
떠다니는 내 기억의 얼음장마다
부르지 않아도 뜨거운 안개가 쌓일 뿐이다.
잠글 수 없는 것이 어디 시간뿐이랴.
아아, 하나의 작은 죽음이 얼마나 큰 죽음들을 거느리는가
나리 나리 개나리
네가 두드릴 곳 하나 없는 거리
봄은 또다시 접혔던 꽃술을 펴고
찬물로 눈을 헹구며 유령처럼 나는 꽃을 꺾는다.

Forsythia My Forsythia


Sister
Once again stirring up a heap of silver scales
Time moved quickly
Spring has arrived
Closing on the lucid memory of a night
Whose tranquil darkness silently took your life
Which hadn't even blossomed a single leaflet yet

Being alive I hardly know time
I was serene without so much as an inkling of a storm
In a sphere filled with time fragments interwoven of
Those you took with you and those you left behind
Still when I strolled barefoot
On the empty fields under the blazing lump of a sun
Time without fail took me on a roller coaster
To give me plenty of thistle pricks
Through the grass still wet with dew

Spring won't inquire about what is not alive
On each floating iceberg populating my memory
Only heated mists pile up, even though never invited in
It is not just time that one cannot lock up
Ah, how a small death goes on to bring about the big ones
Forsythia my forsythia
On a street offering no place for you to knock on
Spring yet again straightens the folded flower buds
And rinsing my eyes in cold water I pick them like a ghost


Spring In Korea

In the first verse the poet calls his sister. He then observes the passing of time which again moved on swiftly while stirring up a heap of silver scales, abstracting the vicissitudes of life in all its glory and ugliness with the image of stirring shiny scales in the air. To the poet spring brings the remembrance of the stillness of that very night when the precious life was taken away from his sister, before she had so much as the first bloom of a leaflet. It is a season that recurs forever with an unbearable weight in his mind.

The second verse has him confessing how he was remiss in mourning her, how he kept his composure in the aftermath of her death, in the jumbled fragments of time he couldn’t seem to sort out to be those of hers or his. He remembers the times of agony he suffered through, as when he was walking the shrubby fields by himself reliving the past hours with her in his mind, under the lumpy looking burning sun while taking the pricks of the thistles, tormented by the machinations of time that seemed to tide and ebb wildly before his eyes.

The last verse opens with the cruel line - that spring won’t inquire about what is not alive. Yes, even spring, nature’s faithful reification of eternal hope, good will of renewal and rejuvenation, excludes the dead. Holding back the saddest of tears, he is reminded of this cruel truth, the fact that even spring is a party only for those still alive, with his sister forever left behind. He talks of the icebergs in his memory and the mists of anguishes that revolved around them. He cries out how he wished he could lock up time, how he is now suffering deaths of his own in his heart, inextricably tied to her sister’s. He sees his sister in the vibrant forsythia blossoming everywhere exalting the glory of life, while his sister the poor one can’t even find a door to knock at on the entire stretch of a street. Taking in the painfully stark reality of the new spring, he rinses his bloodshot eyes in cold water and picks the forsythia like a lost soul.

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