Himalaya Poems

Ko Un

Your Pilgrimage

A slower pace, a somewhat slower pace will do.
Of a sudden, should it start to rain,
let yourself get soaked.
An old friend, the rain.

One thing alone is beautiful: setting off.
The world's too vast
to live in a single place,
or three or four.

Walk on and on
until the sun sets,
with your old accomplice,
shadow, late as ever.
If the day clouds over,
go on anyway

The Himalayas

Recollection is short, fantasy long!
A place where I'd never been born,
must never be born—
the Himalayas.

On whose behalf
did I go there?
I went with all ten fingers trembling.

With so many kinds of foolishness left back home,
I gazed up toward a few peaks
brilliant at eight thousand meters, their golden blades piled high.
Before that, and after,
I could not help but be an orphan.

I had but one hope:
to stay as far from the Himalayas as humanly possible,
and from the world of troublesome questions.
Yes, that was it.


There are stories.
There are people telling stories
and people listening to them.

The room is full
of the breath of the stories.

That is enough.

Eight months of winter at minus 40.
A weaned baby froze to death;
the grieving did not last long.

Soon there are stories.
Between prayers and more prayers
between one meal and the next
there are stories.
This kind of state is a perfect state.

A Long Night

We put up a tent for the night
between Shigatse and Latse.
As soon as the tent was up
a storm broke.
The tent shook as if about to fly away.

The water rose
up the river bank,
and with it the loud sound of the stream.

Shortly before, our water had boiled at 80 Centigrade.
Not anything like 100.
My anxiety and resignation had boiled away with it.

Already unrecallable sights have been swept away.
The sound of the river rose louder still.
The only thing left for me was to be swept away in the swollen stream.
I recalled my wife's face.
I recalled my daughter's face.
I had absolutely no use for things like truth.

translated from the Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha