Translated by David McCann

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