Rice-Field Road at Dusk

After Ko Un

In the village it’s the season of dried grass,
the smell of   burned dirt,
gaslight glinting through blackened stubble.
I walk home across the rice-fields,
brushing insects away from my face,
remembering old Namdong who was buried yesterday.
What does death ask of us?
I must change whatever it was I was
when the old man was alive.
I keep looking at the rice-fields, glinting in the dark.
Blasted by mildew, more withered than last year —
how much work and love it must have taken.
In autumn, no matter how bad the harvest,
how big the debts —
no thought of   leaving here, no thought of rest.
As life goes on, time isn’t the largest thing to think of,
it’s the smallest.
Growing, going
in drought or monsoon, mold or blight —
what is the rice if  not alive?

With Sunja Kim Kwock

More Poems by Suji Kwock Kim