“Thoughts, a Flock of Crows” by Choi Jeong-Rye


Choi Jeong-Rye

My night to you is midday,
and your midday to me as night.

Between us lie the breaking waves
of the vast Pacific.

Violent waves
wander the dark and endless shoreline
grasping at some meaning.
But what could there be?

Like the act of picking up
and setting down a phone in your direction.
You who can’t so much as remember my name.

For a moment, in another night, in another afternoon,
in another’s country,

everything returns to me
in mine.

And many more yous than I can count
rise and sink in the rolling waves like pebbles
from the foundation of the world.


나의 밤이 너에겐 낮이고
너의 낮이 나에겐 밤이라

우리 사이엔 거대한 태평양이
누워서 파도친다

끝도 없이 캄캄한 해안가로
난폭하고 순결한 물결이
무슨 뜻을 품고 굽이쳐 오는 것만 같은데
사실 무슨 뜻이 있겠는가

내 이름조차 기억 못하는 너를 향해
전화기를 들었다 놓는 것과 같다

잠시 다른 밤 다른 낮을 살고 있는
남의 나라에서

내 나라를 향해 한껏 밀려갔다가
다시 돌아서 밀려오는데

셀 수도 없는 네가 거기 떠올랐다 가라앉는다
파도에 굴러다니는 태초부터의 자갈돌처럼
생각의 까마귀떼라
얼굴도 몸통도 어깻죽지도 두 팔도 무너지면서


Choi Jeong-Rye (1955—) was born in the city of Hwasong in Gyeonggi-do. She attended Korea University where she completed her BA, MA, and PhD in Korean literature.

Since first being published by Hyundae Shihak (현대시학) in 1990, her writing has won multiple awards: the Baeksok Prize for Literature (2012), Hyundae Munhak Award (2007), Kim Dal-Jin Prize for Literature (1999), and the Yi Soo Prize for Literature (2003).

Besides having been published in English, Choi Jeong-Rye also participated in the 2006 International Writing Program held by the University of Iowa. A semi-autobiographical essay and several poems from that gathering are available online. In the essay written at the University of Iowa Choi Jeong-Rye remarks:

In Iowa, my mother-tongue is useless. Here, a Korean writer, Park Kyong-ni, comes to mind. She devoted twenty-four years to finishing a single novel (which is in sixteen volumes) […]

Many Korean people think Park Kyong-Ni’s novel could be loved by the whole world. But there are too many references to Korean customs and too many Korean idioms to translate it easily. I love her novel and admire the full twenty-four years she dedicated to it. I admire her language that digs deep into the human mind and into our sad history.

I write in a language that is internationally less prominent than other languages. My language becomes useless when I go abroad. Whenever I think it is useless, I think of Park Kyong-ni and her dedication of twenty-four years. Difficulty of communication doesn’t mean a language has no worth or no depth.

“Thoughts, a Flock of Crows” (생각의 까마귀떼라) originally appeared in Daum – 70 Representative Korean Poets.