Not that anybody needs another reminder of what snow looks like, but here:
There’s been plenty of the cold stuff these past few months.
Heading into March, I’m waiting for spring to arrive – yet I can’t help but type that and immediately note that I can’t exactly remember what it was like without snow. Not that “Oh, it’s been snowing so long, I can’t remember what it was like without it — ” but rather, there’s a rather elegiac habit of mind I encounter that has me always looking at the world with an emphasis on what isn’t there versus what is.
At times, this habit is powerful – in envisioning a way out of a problem, for example. But there are times that require a bit of restraint from thinking away from them.
This week’s poem by Korean poet Shin Kyeong-nim evokes a feeling of what is missed in the turning/thinking away I experience. With each reading, the poem makes me see that life, as it gathers in the years behind us, becomes a series of turns, and that, while much is irretrievable, the experience is constant: what we will miss is in front of us long before we begin to be able to miss it.
The Baby – Shin Kyeong-nim
Baby looks at the snow piling up outside the window;
signs it’s all lovely, all strange; waves a hand.
Like baby trees shaking baby leaves.
Baby knows all the hidden things:
why snow falls, and the lovely things the snowflakes whisper;
knows all – a perfectly contented still life.
After a while, baby learns the word “Mum.”
This means he is forgetting the hidden things of the word “Mum.”
But he doesn’t realize.
Flowers, trees, stars.
With elation baby learns the words,
forgetting the hidden things in each.
And when he has forgotten all the hidden things,
baby is a full-fledged person.
Thus when snow piles up like today,
he’ll fret from thoughts of a girl.
Walking the bank of the stream,
he will cry from nostalgia self-directed.
p.s. Thank you to Daniel Paul Marshall for introducing me to this poem and poet.
* poem found in The Columbia Anthology of Modern Korean Poetry.