Heo Su-gyeong
translated by

Six in the morning in August AD 2002 We cut the earth into squares with shovels Here come shards of earthenware and pig bones and goat bones and a dog made of mud and a wheel and finally a corner of a trampled floor from circa 2000 BC We pause the dig and begin cleaning How much of that floor is left, two meters by one meter? We measure its height and bearing and draw the remains on graph paper Two meters by one meter of circa 2000 BC Once we’re done taking photos we dig again with shovels Let’s go about thirty centimeters deeper Again shards of earthenware and pig bones and cow bones and mud dog and wheel and now even grains hardened like rocks A collapsed stone wall from circa 2100 BC The wall’s twenty centimeters tall We go lower lower and dig another meter By sifting the dirt we salvage everything including the earthenware shards In only a meter I’ve dug up about five hundred years and I’m standing in 2500 BC While Abdullah steps away for breakfast I open a can of tuna If someone finds this tuna can about five hundred years from now how will they sort the order of this tangled time How will they decipher this timehill

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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