“At Dawn When Your Eyes Awake” by Shin Dal-Ja

Shin Dal-Ja (신달자)

Shin Dal-Ja (image source)

At dawn when your eyes awake,
birds that hugged the forest through the night take flight,
laying light against my forehead.
The wind and trees which watched over our dreaming
whisper—in my ears a clear bell.
I know the hour your eyes awake.
Dawn is coming for me,
so hurry, and even if we fall asleep
hasten to the center of my dreams.
Come and leave no distance.
Freeze the tears of dawn which cause eyes to open.
All of this before the sun grows warm.

When you fall asleep,
my skies lie down
among dreaming blades of grass.
And for the even breathing of the settling darkness
on the plain,
far off animals’ footsteps are muffled
because they know when you sleep.
Night comes to me where I am.
No matter where we each falls asleep,
you are at the end of my days,
lowering a wick,
unbolting the lock to my dreams before entering—
my sleep
is another beginning.
All of this, a work done after midnight.


네가 눈뜨는 새벽
숲은 밤새 품었던 새를 날려
내 이마에
빛을 물어다 놓는다
우리 꿈을 지키던
뜰에 나무들 바람과 속삭여
내 귀에 맑은 종소리 울리니
네가 눈뜨는 시각을 내가 안다
그리고 나에게 아침이 오지
어디서 우리가 잠들더라도
너는 내 꿈의 중심에
거리도 없이 다가와서
눈뜨는 새벽의 눈물겨움
다 어루만지니
모두 태양이 뜨기 전의 일이다

네가 잠들면
나의 천국은 꿈꾸는 풀로
푸른 초원에 내리는
어둠의 고른 숨결로
먼데 짐승도 고요히 발걸음 죽이니
네가 잠드는 시각을 내가 안다
그리고 나에게 밤이 오지
어디서 우리가 잠들더라도
너는 내 하루의 끝에 와
심지를 내리고
내 꿈의 빗장을 먼저 열고 들어서니
나의 잠은
또 하나의 시작
모두 자정이 넘는 그 시각의 일이다


Shin Dal-Ja (1943—) was born in Geochang County in South Gyeongsang Province. She completed her BA (1965), MA (1980), and PhD (1992) in Korean Language and Literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She made her formal literary debut in Hyundae Munhak in 1974 with “Feet” (발) and “First Voice” (처음 목소리), which she submitted at the urging of the poet Park Mok-Wol (박목월).

Among other honors, she has received the Korean Award for Literature (1989), Silver Crown for the Order of Cultural Merit (2012), and the Prize of the Association of Korean Poets (2004).