Ra Hee-duk
Ra Hee-duk
Three Poems

Ra Hee-duk




Translated by

Kevin O’Rourke





Nothing exists except the ladybird and me;

we both stole into this room to avoid the cold.


The ladybird crawls laboriously along the floor,

flails the air in upside-down collapse,

sits abstractedly on the open page of a book,

and – as if suddenly remembering –

unfolds its tail wings for a zing dusting.


The zing of the wings cuts the heart

like a tiny electric saw.

Through the window winter sunlight

illuminates the ladybird’s dappled back.

And when it also illuminates

the eyes that are watching the ladybird’s back,


the inch worm within me

addresses the ladybird within you.


We’re both a bit insect-like;

what colloquy can we share?


An odour given off;

a buzz as we circle each other;

a joint flailing of the air

as we get turned upside down;

an idle stirring of pollen

as we slither between pistil and stamen?


What warmth can we – part insect as we are –

share before we desiccate

in a window nook?


A handful of winter sunlight

short as the stumpy tail of a roe.






Obliterate me!

I opened the window onto the street

and called thick fog into my rooms.

Fog that obliterated the traffic lights.

The fog evaporated after crossing the window sill.a

Even fog loses its way here.

Obliterate me!

Material things gulp down the thick fog.

Still they rub dry, sandy eyes.


Fill me up!

Thick fog crept like the tide

through the window that opens to the sea.

Fog that obliterated the horizon.

The fog flowed into me after crossing the window sill.

Even fog reels here.

Fill me up!

Fog wet the chair; fog wet the mirror.

Material things suddenly were one with the fog.


The heart has two contiguous rooms,

each careful in its movements

not to waken the other.

All that moved between the rooms

was the silent, restless, undulant fog.




I gave myself to the music;

my feet slid away and I began to cast off time.

Thread unraveling within me

slid sul-sul-sul-sul across the threshold.

Feet danced past the bakery, past the laundry,

past the park, past the local tong office,

past your table and bed, past the graves and the grassy fields.

They did not return. What now?

“Keep dancing!” the world cried.

Though my legs be threatened with amputation,

I can still give myself completely to the music.

Remember I’m wearing my snug pink shoes.

Do you hear the melody in my blood?

Do you hear the water crossing the embankment?

I’m at liberty to go where I please, but I go nowhere.

The sun does not set here no matter how I dance.

The bobbin within unravels, endlessly,

like water flowing over the embankment.

Threads tangle, roads tangle.

Axe raised, the city rushes at me,

trying to capture me,

but I cannot stop dancing

because of pink shoes I put on so long ago,

somnolent for far too long.