Thursday, November 15, 2012

Grass Lives, Stones Wear (Poem)

Grass Lives, Stones Wear

Acid in his ears
did not block

their cries
nor the keening

of rain and sirens.
He hears now

with one ear all
the dead lamenting

their fate. War
leaned his face

to the cemetery,
showing Ko Un

the grass lives
while stones wear

the names
his poems replace.

Ten thousand lives
he carries within;

in the cell of his
mind, with its light

preventing sleep,
he scans and scrolls:

fishers and lovers,

and a madwoman,
liars and the blind

family, thieves
and a village idiot

and the butcher
and traveling salesman

and the war's just
injured and corpses—

all collected. So many
songs never come

back, need another
breath to be finished.

His heart hurts
the way the sea is

wrapping itself

in black binding
thread to constrict

the space between
writing the moments

here, on this side
of time, and writing

them there with his eyes
never closing.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by the life of the extraordinary Korean poet Ko Un, who has published more than 150 poetry collections. This month Bloodaxe Books has released First Person Sorrowful, a collection of Ko Un's poetry that is the first British edition of his work.

My poem references Ko Un's books Maninbo (Ten Thousand Lives) [see Amazon edition], comprising 30 volumes, and This Side of Time: Poems (White Pine Press, 2012).

For information about Ko Un, see the articles "Ko Un's First Person Sorrowful Offers a Window Into an Extraordinary Life" (The Guardian, November 8, 2012), "Poet of Wonders" (The New York Review of Books, November 3, 2005), and "The Art and Life of Korean Poet Ko Un: Cross-Cultural Communication" (The Asia-Pacific Journal). A selection of translations by Brother Anthony of Taize is included in the latter. Also see Ko Un at The Poetry Center at Smith College. In 2008, Ko Un was presented with the Lifetime Recognition Award of The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.

1 comment:

Louise Gallagher said...

the title is a poem.

Your words break my heart open.