I’m utterly helpless.
I’ll just have to swallow my spit
and adversity, too.
A distinguished visitor deigns to visit
my tiny, north-facing cell.
Not the chief making his rounds, no.
As evening falls, a ray of sunlight.
A gleam no bigger than a crumpled postage stamp.
I’m crazy about it! Real first love!
I try to get it to settle on the palm of my hand,
to warm the toes of my shyly bared foot.
Then as I kneel and offer it my undevout, lean face,
in a moment that scrap of sunlight slips away.
After the guest has departed through the bars
the room feels several times colder and darker.
This special cell of a military prison
is like a photographer’s darkroom.
Without any sunlight I laughed like a fool.
One day it was a coffin holding a corpse.
One day it was altogether the sea. How wonderful!
A few people survive here.
Being alive is a sea
without a single sail in sight.
by Ko Un
from Songs for Tomorrow
Green Integer Books, 2009