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
Forsythia My Forsythia
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.