Sweeping the Yard– Lee, San-ha


Sweeping the Yard


Our grandfathers
Began their days by sweeping their yards.
Although they swept them every day, they always became messy again.

I clean my place for the first time in a long while.
I momentarily weigh two methods:
sweeping the dust away with a broom
Or sucking it up with a vacuum cleaner.
Sweeping it away
Wears out and breaks the broom—
That is, the old way has its limitations.
I choose the new way instead:
First absorbing and embracing all the dust
Then spitting it out.
Although, unlike the old way, this is very noisy,
Both the room and the yard become clean.
Yet they are too clean.
Like the old saying: there are no fish in water that’s too clean,
The floor is so smooth that it looks as if it could reflect my nerves and make me dizzy,
And the yard becomes so shallow that it looks as if a single leaf of grass would not grow in it.
This wiping clean makes the yard so desolate that it ends up inviting isolation.
Besides, if the filter is not changed often,
The overflowing dust
Rots, stinks, and suffocates inside.
Again I begin to reflect hard on the method of cleaning.

New trash piles up today again:
Things that come from outside,
Things that are made inside,
And things that so frequently enter and go out that it is hard to know where they come from.
You who sweep your rooms and yard as soon as you wake up;
You who clean the trash of the world even while your eyes are closed;
Watch out, above all, and keep the filter inside you clean!
Watch out, above all, and make sure to keep your broom from rotting!





Lee, San-ha 1987, when he was active in the propaganda of Democratization Movement Youth Union, Lee San-ha announced the epic poem, which reveals the genocide and truth of ‘Jeju 4 · 3


Translated by 전승희 Seung-Hee Jeon
(literary critic and translator, editor of Asia: A Magazine of Asian Literature)


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