As a youth I was
obsessed with graves.
There are six-hundred and eighty-nine
mounds in Hwandung Cemetery.
At Sarabong graveyard on Cheju Island
I would stop on the way every night
to sleep by the grave side.
Word spread that I was a ghost
residing in that cemetery.
A lucky day it was
when someone died and his grave was dug.
I would say with joy,
so, you have come here at last?
What can be a better place
to come to than this one?
At day's end once
drunk as could be I fell asleep
somewhere among the graves
and was stung by a scorpion.
For a week I wore a piece of pumpkin
bandaged to my cheek,
all swollen, in deadly pain.
And again, as a novice monk
on my way back to Marae Temple
in T'ongyong, I once spent half a day
in a graveyard, forgetting
the errand for my master,
a lapse that cost me dear.
A few decades drifted past
until I came to realize
wild animals have no graves!
Animals are better than man;
they are superior to God!
They do not leave their graves behind.
They are far better than myself.
Have I been infatuated, crying and weeping
over graves, in order to awaken
to this simple truth?
translated from the Korean by David McCann