Cho Ji Hoon — Afternoon at the Zoo — translated by Sekyo Nam Haines

On a day when my mind is drenched in sorrow 
I go to visit the zoo. 

The sadness I can’t talk with people  
I want to talk with animals. 

I do not come here just to watch you, 
but come with a mind of rubbing our cheeks together to cry together. 
Hiding, I write poems, but no one reads them. 
Walking along the iron rails 
I read my book of poems, carefully collected. 

I am the one who is behind the iron cage. 
When I turn, animals from all alien lands 
look at me from every direction through iron bars. 

Here is a poet without a country  
the whispering sounds.... 

That afternoon at the empty zoo, our position is reversed 
the sunset spreads like a scream. 

Sekyo Nam Haines’s book, Bitter Seasons’ Whip: The Translated Poems of Lee Yuk Sa is forthcoming with Tolsun books. Born and raised in South Korea, Sekyo immigrated to the U.S. in 1973 as a registered nurse. She studied American literature and writing at Goddard College ADP and poetry with the late Ottone M. Riccio in Boston, MA. Her poems have appeared in the anthologies Do Not Give Me Things Unbroken, Unlocking The Poem, and Beyond Words; and in the poetry journals Constellations, Off the Coast and Lily Poetry Review. Her translations of Korean poetry have appeared in The Harvard Review, The Seventh Quarry Poetry Magazine, Brooklynrail: InTranslation, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Ezra, Circumference, The Massachusetts Review, and Notre Dame Review. Her translation of “The Dire Pinnacle” by Lee Yuk Sa appeared in The Anthology of Best Work in Translation by The Massachusetts Review. Sekyo lives in Cambridge, MA with her family.