Son Taek-su
Son Taek-su
Lacquer-Tree Chicken

Son Taek-su




Translated by

Brother Anthony of Taize






Just graze its shade and your skin gently breaks out in goose bumps.

The memories of heatwaves and floods that brushed by it once a year,

the snowstorms that snapped and broke its arms - twisting them together,

the tree wraps and binds them within itself.

It wrings itself and every leaf spits out the greenest green groan.

But for being toxic, the chicken is just as poisonous.

Did it not live its whole life in prison?

Crest and beak projecting like the teeth of a saw,

Its neck narrowly sticking out between metal bars

until the moment its head was neatly chopped off,

did it not live growing a carcass not its own?

Animal and plant, both toxic now,

are simmering and boiling, to become fully one.





Speaking of toxic, I am just as poisonous.

I’ll spread the bump-raising lacquer poison

to the world that carelessly devoured me.

My nose stuck in an earthen bowl,

I’m eating lacquer-tree chicken with my father

with the fifty thousand won I got somehow for two poems.

You earned your living carrying loads for thirty years,

your guts ruined with drinking and smoking,

your face scorched black because of it,

but more because your son is over thirty and still idle,

poison from alcohol and nicotine, from your ever burdensome son.

To let the lacquer juice take effect and turn my face crimson

I press on firmly, containing the irritation rising into my throat.

I quickly empty the thick poisonous broth and swallow.