2004 International Shortlist
Crush my eyes, bitter grapes:
wring out the wine of seeing.
We tried to escape across the frozen Yalu, to Ch’ientao or Harbin.
I saw the Japanese soldiers shoot:
I saw men and women from our village blown to hieroglyphs of viscera,
River of never.
River the opposite of Lethe,
dividing those who lived from those who were killed:
why did I survive?
I wondered at each body with its separate skin, its separate suffering.
My childhood friend lay on the boot-blackened ice:
I touched his face with disbelief,
I tried to hold his hand but he snatched it away, as if he were ashamed of dying,
eye grown large with everything it saw, everyone who disappeared:
pupil of suffering.
Lonely O, blank of an eye
rolled back into its socket,
I was afraid to see you:
last thoughts, last dreams crawling through his skull like worms.
From Notes from the Divided Country, by Suji Kwock Kim
Copyright © 2003