Poetry by Oh Sae-young

A Drop of Blood

(Translated from Korean by Clare You and Zack Rogow).

I dipped a pen in ink,

wrote a poem on a sheet of paper.

I believed I’d written it with bloody care

and that I’d worked up a sweat.

 

But I hadn’t.

 

When Mother, a seamstress, was struggling to support me,

I hated to study as a boy.

I remember her finger getting pricked by a needle, dripping blood.

 

Mom, doesn’t it hurt?

It doesn’t hurt me as much as when you don’t study.

 

The bloodstain on the white collar of her cotton jacket.

 

Today as I

watched my wife sewing a button on my shirt

I understood:

 

the ink I dipped my pen in was a

drop of her blood,

the paper I wrote on

her white cotton jacket.

 


Oh Sae-young is a leading Korean poet also noted for his works of criticism. He has published twenty-four volumes of poetry, and numerous works about literature, including studies of romantic and contemporary poetry in Korea. Oh Sae-young has won numerous literary awards and is currently a professor emeritus at the prestigious Seoul National University, where he taught Korean poetry for many years.

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