Korean Poet Kim Ki Taek’s “Face”

Earlier this month, I read at the Seoul International Writers Festival.  One thing of great value that I brought back with me was the poetry of Kim Ki Taek as also his friendship.  Born in 1957, Kim Ki Taek has successfully juggled the life of an office worker and a poet for the past twenty years.  His major works of poetry include “Fetal Sleep”, “Storm in the Eye of a Needle”, “Administrative Staff” and “Ox”.  With his permission, I am posting his poem “Face”.

(Look up this link for an interview with Kim Ki Taek: http://cordite.org.au/interviews/kim-ki-taek/ )


Since my eyes were tired and blurry, I briefly buried my face in my hands.

The face covered by my hands was dark and once the darkness had penetrated my hands

my palms touched my skull.

My hands, seeming to sense something wonderful, felt the bone.

If I touched it too suddenly I felt that something would be lost

So I set about exploring it bit by bit, gingerly,

that cold, unfriendly object, interested in nothing,

that solid ruin that most likely existed before my face formed.

You face, stuck to the skull’s shell,

forming expressions as you smile, weep, frown,

you face, thin as the heart,

never sleeping, never thinking, never sorrowing,

my skull is always watching you,

watching the face that blooms briefly than fades,

the long hours stretching on even after the face’s memory has been erased,

stretching behind the face

with huge eyes, sunglass-sized holes pierced.

After a while I removed the hands that had been feeling the skull.

In a flash, sunlight turned into flesh and covered my skull,

turning into face.

The face felt awkward, being suddenly covered again after long abolition

and I blinked for a time. Having at last got my eyes back,

I quickly began to focus on the figures in the document.

(Translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taize)