Do Jong-hwan
Do Jong-hwan
Three poems


That is a wall.

When it feels like just one of those walls,


the ivy silently climbs the wall.

When it is called a wall of despair,

without a drop of water, and not a single grain of seed could survive,

the ivy moves forward without haste.

Even a short span is scaled together, hand in hand,

until all despair is covered blue,

– there is no letting go of that despair.

When we shake our heads before an insurmountable wall

an ivy leaf leads thousands of ivy leaves

and eventually conquers the wall.




The face of a wild cherry tree leaf is turning redder than a red dragonfly The seasons of the universe are passing by autumn, and the time of my life is between three to five in the afternoon My life between twelve to one o’clock was intense, but what followed was mostly worm-eaten

Though already distanced from the centre of time, I am grateful that there are still a few hours before dark, and happy at the thought of being granted yet another brilliant spectacle of clouds illuminated by a twilight sky just before the sun goes down

Soon, winter will arrive There will come a day when ice melts at the northern end of the earth, sending ice chunks all the way to seaside villages Even then, the woods will embrace my dimming body and shadow The flowers and trees are well aware of how much I loved the cork oaks, squirrels, children and pansies last spring and summer, and how hard I fought to protect them The earth will raise its tranquil hand as my witness

I still have a few hours left

and the time now is between three to five o’clock




In memory of Scott Nearing


It is evening, when even the peony closes its flowers.

Watching the birds call out to one another in the same cry

and nesting on the branches, I rest my axe.

At this hour

when the forest gathers its final scent

for beans and potatoes planted yesterday, and for squirrels and deer,

the sound of wood-splitting will not be comforting.

While neatly stacking pieces of firewood under the rafters,

I thought of you.

When you moved to the Vermont forest

after twice being dismissed from mainstream society,

you had lost hope for the progressive movement

and were thoroughly shunned by the world.

However, you escaped

from the engulfing madness, destruction and devastation.

I washed my forehead with the flowing water,

sat down on a rock and thought.

Unlike you, after a day of hard work, reading, and writing

I did not experience harmony with nature.

Just like arranging the scattered blocks of wood and sprigs

in a neat pile, my life too

will be put back in order.

Brushing the dust off my clothes

I will greet evening in a slow and simple way.

As darkness cloaks the woods and valleys

the grass and trees align their hands

towards the stars.

We are a family living the same life.

I hear a wish for abundance and peace

cradled in the arms of the complete, massive universe.

Tonight, many stars are still covered by the clouds

while the night fog has not lifted from my heart.

But as I become familiar with the simplicity of life,

with a firm grasp on consistency

when my eyes regain the light of the universe

the stars will come flooding to this valley.

Of all that which fills me up within,

remove what should be removed and

return what should be returned.

Let things fall into place.

If I were to get back a natural face and smile

and mature into the well-balanced character that you are,

with righteousness and goodness joined in the body,

how wonderful it would be. Then

summer mountains and autumn forests will rejoice.

I am happy to have known you in my later days.

May you find peace on the other side of the sea.

In memory of you and your timeless search for perfection

in the forest and beneath the stars.


Poems translated by Park Kyung-ri


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