Picture Poem

Of all the teachers I’ve met at Baekyoung High School, Nine Stones the Chinese instructor is by far my favorite.  A slight man, quiet and thoughtful, he’s always smiling and genuine.  He’s also the only teacher I have any contact with who can speak no English.  (I’m sure this would reflect most of the teachers in the school, but the ones that have made my acquaintance are the few who want to practice their English, and so that would be maybe 5%) He’s also the only one who has bothered to teach me anything, which happened the time I brought a Korean children’s book to school and he showed me what the root Chinese words were.  He’s the one who’s wife is a descendant of King Sejong and whose mother-in-law resides at Sujoldang, the residence of the poet/philosopher Toegye, where we stayed in Andong.  I like him because he’s never agitated and always calm, befitting his stature as an officially recognized Korean poet.  I’m sad that without Y as translator, we don’t have conversations anymore, but somehow he always knows what’s going on with me, and he’s the one person I never fail to say good morning to.

A few months ago we celebrated because his poems got published in an anthology.  I didn’t know it until last week, after a day spent weeping by myself at my desk, that one of those poems was about me, when he gave it to me to make me feel better.  So here it is.  Please forgive me if I got some of the hangul wrong.  (those little dashes on the vowels are hard to see sometimes)  It was remarkably easy to type in, and good practice for me, even though I don’t know what I’m writing.  That’s how it is with a phonetic language like Korean:  the symbols are easy to master, the writing a quickly acquired skill, but the words, the words…



그 여자, #4708  외 1편




리안제인리스 Leanne Jane Leith


앵두나무 꽃 핀  날 구경 건  안동 신시장

두 살적 엄마 찾는  마흔 넷 된 여자가

고무줄 한 묶음 사서 까만 머리룰 묶었다


카메라에 넣지 못한 내가 놓친 풍경들을

수졸덩 (some Chinese word here) 안주인과 나란히 사진 찍던

그 혀자 맨 처음 배운 한국말은 엄마다



가칭 (some Chinese word here) 서영숙 Suh Yung Sook


나룰 버릔 이유는

뭔지 무르지만

이 나라에 들어올 때

이미 용서한 당신


다 이ㅎ해해요

이제 니를


보고 싶 은 엄마가

내 얼굴 닮은 섯과

실묜서 긍금헀던

말 못한 그리훔흘


알고 있지요

내가 누군지




The translation Nine Stones gave me (with a few grammar corrections on my part):



The woman, #4708


When cherry trees came into blossom, I went to Andong market with my acquaintances to see it.

Among them, there was a 44 year-old woman looking for the mother she lost at the age of 2.

She bound her hair with an elastic string.


She took pictures with the hostess of Sujoldang

in the background of my missing scenery.

The first Korean word she learned was “mother.”



Suh Yung Sook


I don’t know why you deserted me but,

I’ve already forgiven you

when I came to this country.

I understand you.

Please, search for me.

My longing for my mother

is beyond description.

Probably, my mother knows

how much

I miss her and

I wonder

if she looks

like me.

She knows me.

The mother of Nine Stone’s wife – a wonderful, warm, talented woman I wish I could call mom.

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