Monday, February 09, 2004

Discipline and after

A few days ago

one of the dead came back from the tomb

wearing the same old smile,

his everyday clothes restored from the ashes

to which his belongings had been reduced.

He gave quite a complete account of himself.

All around was full of light in water.

He said what he wanted to say

then left like a letter.

My younger brother,

his heart and body polished pure,

saw him off standing close beside me.

We spend every afternoon like this now

welcoming and saying goodbye.

Occasionally I hear talk from the dead

of the Korea of centuries past.

They usually leave out a few things, I think.

After all, how could they say everything

in one brief resurrection?

Their life's story, before and after they died,

is more than a few words can tell.

After seeing them off, my brother is silent

like an empty bowl just lying there.

He always welcomes our visitors from beyond the tomb

wearing the same unlined clothes.

Eerie taboos of transparent glass

spread along the corridor.

Responding simply in a quiet voice

to what they say,

his heart is open, ready to receive everything, alone.

We always spend the afternoons welcoming

and taking leave of guests from beyond the tomb.

The sunlight beyond the windowpane is a sundial

by which we tell the time.

Each word my brother hears from the dead

is first dried in the sun, then kept in reserve.

How very true! This world is the other world,

this world is the tomb, huge and vast.

Tomorrow, let's not say goodbye to those that come,

let's have them stay and live with us.

(THE SOUND OF MY WAVES : Poems by Ko Un Translated by Brother Anthony of Taize and Young-Moo Kim)