Around Unmun Temple at Ch'Eongdo

By Ko Un
Translated by Sunny Jung
All day long I've been hidden, enmeshed, locked in
the shadow of the holy mountain,
my body covered with shame.
I'd hoped there would be a dog
barking furiously.
Unable to go forward,
unable to go back,
at least with the sound of a dog barking
I'd attain something . . . something.

Instead of a dog barking there was silence,
then the sound of a drum beaten loud & fast
by a young nun.

Into this temple come none of the grand sounds,
none of the great thoughts.
In the cabbage field, heads all the same size
are profiles of young novice nuns & the priestesses
sitting in Unmun Temple.
Young faces
like dew,
like hoarfrost.

Ko Un, "Around Unmun Temple at Ch’Eongdo," translated by Sunny Jung and Hillel Schwartz, from Abiding Places. Copyright © 2006 by Ko Un.  Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press.
Source: Abiding Places (Tupelo Press, 2006)