“Warm Earth” by Jo Eun

Jo Eun

Jo Eun (image source)

Settled for a moment in the place they came to rest,
the seeds buried themselves.
Knowing the course of water
flowing to my body, they did not fall
but caught the earthy scent of a place where water becomes pure.
Sprouting, no memory of conception,
no memory of birth.
My body is foreign.
Sometimes, there was a place
I wanted to spread my roots,
and in those roots, a season on the verge of seeing flowers.
A burden
my heart could never hold again
climbs like spring water.
With seeds set inside, I try to go on living.


잠시 앉았다 온 곳에서
씨앗들이 묻어 왔다
씨앗들이 내 몸으로 흐르는
물길을 알았는지 떨어지지 않는다
씨앗들이 물이 순환되는 곳에서 풍기는
흙내를 맡으며 발아되는지
잉태의 기억도 생산의 기억도 없는
내 몸이 낯설다
언젠가 내게도
뿌리내리고 싶은 곳이 있었다
그 뿌리에서 꽃을 보려던 시절이 있었다
다시는 그 마음을 가질 수 없는
내 고통은 그곳에서
샘물처럼 올라온다
씨앗을 달고 그대로 살아보기로 한다


Warm Earth (따뜻한 흙) is found in Jo Eun’s third book of poetry by the same name. The collection was published in 2003, with some of her work also appearing in the literary magazine Segyeui Moonhak (세계의 문학).

Her first published poem was “The Earth Does Not Easily Embrace a Corpse” (땅은 주검을 호락호락 받아주지 않는다), which appeared in Segyeui Moonhak (세계의 문학) in 1988.

Of Eun’s third collection of poetry, professor Lee Gwang-Ho from Seoul Institute of the Art (서울예술대학교) writes:

In the poetry of Jo Eun, one discovers a tension between life and death. Since for the poet, deep self-reflection is both the origin of life and the lengthening of it, an understanding of death is very important. In the poem “The Reason for Spinning Graves” (무덤을 맴도는 이유), she writes, “I wonder why the things that give me life resemble graves.” To this question, poets can only reply time and time again, ‘There’s no way to know…” but by having an attitude willing to reflect on the unknowability is one way of bearing up under life” (source).