Self-Portraitather was a serf, seldom came home at night.
At home my grandmother, old as
The shriveled root of leek,
And a blossoming date tree.
Big with child, Mother wanted just one apricot.
I was a mother's son with dirty fingernails
Under a lamp by the mud wall.
With bushy hair and staring eyes,
I am said to resemble Grandpa on Mother's side,
Who in 1894 went to sea and never returned.
For twenty-three years the wind has reared two-thirds of me,
And the world has become a more embarassing place.
Some have read a convict in my eyes,
Others an idiot in my mouth.
Yet I will repent nothing.
At each dawn, brightly assailing,
The dews of poetry settled on my brow,
Mixed with drops of blood.
And I have come this far panting
Like a sick dog with his tongue hanging out
In the sun and in the shade.--- So Chongju (Korea, b. 1915)
Translated by Peter H. Lee
From World Poetry (Norton)