A Long Time Ago Some King Died,

Heo Su-gyeong
translated by

Inside a house made of mud brick I drink tea, a golden tea brought by men who cross the border at night, a long time ago some king died, the men say, but where could that king’s tomb be, we’ve been going around looking for that tomb for a very long time, the men say, once I find the tomb, once I find the golden tomb that shines like tea-light, once I find the dead king … why my wife disappeared back then, why my house was set on fire back then, why horses trampled on my children back then.… A long time ago some king died, he died long long before these men were born, but their eyes all glint with determination, once I find the tomb, I can find out where my family died.… The king died long long before the grandfathers of these men were born, why are the men trying to find the king’s tomb, I drink tea, inside a house made of mud brick I drink tea, why did the king die long before the great-grandfathers of these men were even born?

Click here to read a note from the translator.

Heo Su-gyeong (1964–2018) was a poet, translator, and archaeologist. Born in Jinju, South Korea, she wrote six poetry collections, three novels, three essay collections, and two children’s books in Korean. Heo’s translations from German into Korean include works by Paul Celan and the Grimm Brothers.
Soje is a poet and the translator of Lee Hyemi’s Unexpected Vanilla (Tilted Axis Press, 2020), Choi Jin-young’s To the Warm Horizon (Honford Star, 2021), and Lee Soho’s Catcalling (Open Letter Books, 2021). They also make chogwa, a quarterly e-zine featuring one Korean poem and multiple English translations.
Originally published:
September 18, 2023


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