Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Translation Issue—Issue 51, March 2015)

Kim Hyesoon
By the River of Formalin —Day Thirty Three
Don Mee Choi, Translation

Brain inside the test tube is still alive

Looks like it’s writing poetry

It’s plunging into a blurry image

It’s opening the gate to grandparents’ house like a wind

The instant it runs into the embrace of dead grandmother

its missing eyes open

and a black stick hallucinated by

its missing body whacks its head

Brain inside the test tube is hurting

You’re outside of you

Your outside hurts

Missing toes hurt

Scattered rooms hurt, my heart hurts

Brain inside the test tube scratches its body all over with its ten fingers

scratches till the skin breaks

Brain inside the test tube takes off

It rides the subway, rides the bus, takes a cab

exits the test tube

It departs swaying swaying

like a head inside the plastic bag of a serial killer

I want to tell you, tell you everything

but my mouth stays shut

my hands tremble

Where did my shoes go?

Roots of the dark-blue night descend into the test tube

Everyone has left the lab

Brain inside the test tube mutters

Whitely white monster inside me

has a blue nightdress on

You’re transparent like water

and soft

but you’re fatal like the blue saliva of a poisonous snake

Brain inside the test tube is bystander’s brain, survivor’s brain

Brain inside the test tube always wants to bash its head against the wall and cry

Brain submerged in formalin river sways back and forth

An obscure place like this poem

An ambiguous place like this poem

A disinfected place like this poem

Brain inside the test tube puts on its hat and thinks intently

Why does the outside always hurt?

Why do the missing feet hurt?

Why does the riverbed that props up the feet hurt?

Someone who has set himself on fire stands at the rail of a bridge

Brain inside the test tube is screaming

Brain inside the test tube is going mad

What am I to do?

What can I do to forget all this?

This poem is one of the 49 poems that make up a long poem called “Autobiography of Death.” Each poem represents a day in the 49 days during which spirit roams about after departing from the body at death. Kim says she couldn’t help writing these 49 poems because there were so many unfortunate deaths in South Korea the past few years.