Michelle Chung

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Michelle Chung is a poet, critic, editor, and translator. She grew up in Seoul, Korea. She graduated Hanyang University, taught in high school, and immigrated to the U.S. She earned a Master’s degree in Christian Psychology at Emmanuel University in Los Angeles. She worked for Dong-A Daily USA and Christian Herald as a reporter. She made her poetry debut with Hanmak Literature Emerging Poet Award (1997), an award for literary criticism from ‘Literature and Consciousness’ in Korea (2010), received the 14th ‘Kasan Literary Award’ for her poetry in U.S. (2008). She wrote a novel for several years, and was a finalist for a long story Award from Woman Dong-A (1980). She was a former chairwoman of The Korean Christian Literary Writers Association of America. She hosted GBS Radio Broadcasting “The Heart of the Jewel” literary program, (2006), and Seoul Radio Broadcasting. “Michelle Chung’s Poetry and Music” program (2010) in Los Angeles. She is currently a publisher of Global Poetry & Poetics, Mijusihak from Korean Poets Society of America, and Los Angeles County employee. She is author of The Sky is Clear on Mornings with Clear Bird Song (1998), Beyond the Window, Another Window Opens (2003), and Reveries of the Street (2009), and published many anthologies.

 

암호

 

두란노 서원을 찾으려다
셀수스 도서관 주변에서
목욕탕과 사우나에 공중 화장실까지 갖춘
열린 박물관을 보았고
극장과 도서관을 연결하는 거리에서
세 개의 암호를 찾았다
기독교인이 몰래 숨어서 그린 동그라미
도서관으로 향하는 왼쪽 발과
그 옆에 거머리처럼 붙어 다니는
여자 얼굴의 부조
지적인 창녀의 집이나
테라스가 있는 귀족의 집마다
삶이 모자이크된 벽과 벽
승리의 여신 나이키가 비스듬히 앉아
자신의 심벌을 가리키며 웃고 있는
에베소에서는
암호를 아는 자만이 갈 곳을 안다

* 에베소[Ephesus]: 고대 그리스 도시 유적인 에페수스.

 

With Secret Codes

While searching for Tyrannus Bookstore,
Near Celsus Library
I saw an open museum
Equipped with bath house, sauna, and public bathroom;
On the street that connects library to the theater
I found three secret codes:
A circle drawn by Christians hidden from others,
A left foot heading toward the library,
And a relief of a woman’s face
Clinging to the foot like a leach.
In the houses of intelligent prostitutes
Or the houses with terraces belonging to aristocrats,
Walls, walls with mosaics of Life.
In Ephesus where reclining Nike, Goddess of Victory,
Smiles pointing at her symbol,
Only the ones with secret codes
Know where to go.

*Ephesus: Remains of ancient Greek city

 

오코티요의 봄

 

가늘고 긴 장대 끝에
빨간 손수건을 묶으며
오코티요*의 봄은
죽음 앞에 꽃으로 대항한다

꽃 피우는 일이 사치가 아니요
생명을 건 모험이라
입술이 터지면 꽃술이 나오고
꽃술이 나오면 꽃잎이 말린다

물 없이도 버텨야 하는 사막에서
갈증에 탄 목이 갈라지고
진홍빛 선혈이 뚝뚝 떨어져도
짧게 살다 가는 것을 슬퍼하지 마라

조건이 맞지 않아 꽃 피우지 못해도
너만은 이해해 다오
워낙 체질이 그러함을

오므라들면서 절약하고
꽃을 피우면서 아껴 모은 물로
봄에 불이나 질러볼까
사막은 벌써 추수를 꿈꾼다

* 오코티요(Ocotillo): 멕시코나 미국 서남부 돌이 많은 사막지대에 야생하는 가늘고 긴 줄기에 빨간 꽃이 피며 가시가 많은 관목의 선인장.


The Spring of Ocotillo

At the tip of a thin long pole,
Tying a red handkerchief,
The spring of Ocotillo defies death
With flowers.

For flowers to blossom is not an extravagance;
It’s an adventure risking one’s life.
Lips burst, and the stamens appear;
Stamens appear, and the petals curl up.

In the desert that requires endurance without water,
Though parched throat cracks,
Crimson blood drips,
Don’t despair the life short-lived.

If I can’t make the flowers bloom because of unfit conditions,
Please understand.
It’s due to my weak constitution.

With water, conserved by cringing,
Scrimped and saved by blooming flowers
Should I set the spring on fire?
The desert dreams of harvest already.

*Ocotillo: a spiny desert candlewood with scarlet flowers found in Mexico and the Southwest of the USA

 

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