Face of crying bronze statue

lament for children

by Nansŏrhŏn

translated by Ian Haight & T’ae-yong Hŏ

Read in English
Read in Korean

Last year, I lost my treasured daughter;
this year I’ve lost my beloved son.
Piercing tears throughout our family’s land—
they lay side by side in their graves.

The emptiness of wind through white poplars—
candles of wispy light glimmer among pines.
I scatter paper money 
calling your souls with pure water 
poured over your graves.

You will know each other’s spirits—
every night, play together as you once did.
Though a child now grows in my womb,
how long will it live?

Blank, I sing my tears,
bitterly breathing air.

Nansŏrhŏn (pen name “White Orchid”) was a sequestered noblewoman who lived during the sixteenth century in Korea. Considered by many Korean scholars to be Korea’s greatest female poet, she died at the age of twenty-seven.
Ian Haight’s collection of poetry, Celadon, won Unicorn Press’ First Book Prize. Poems, essays, interviews, reviews, microfiction and translations appear in Barrow Street, Writer’s Chronicle, Hyundai Buddhist News, Full Stop, MoonPark Review and Prairie Schooner. For more information please visit ianhaight.com.
T’ae-yong Hŏ has been awarded translation grants from the Daesan Foundation and Korea Literature Translation Institute. Working from the original classical hansi, T’ae-yong’s translations of Korean poetry have appeared in RunesNew Orleans Review, and the Atlanta Review.

Image Credit Joseph Berardi