Hyejung Kook’s poem, “Cheongomabi / 천고마비,” — whose title is a Korean idiom of autumnal celebration that the poem beautifully translates to “the sky is high, the horses are sleek with autumn fat” — is an intricate study of the rich, unshakable hope that arrives after hopelessness. The poem begins with a meditation on the color of ripening jujubes, which leaps into an unexpected, haunting yet gorgeous memory, then pauses with powerful syntactical command to confess a time the speaker lost hope. And yet, the poem says, “Today,” and closes with a gift, an image of quiet expectation, which earns the poem’s initial assertion that here lies “Proof of goodness in the world.”
— Eugenia Leigh, Poetry Editor
Cheongomabi / 천고마비
Proof of goodness in the world: an October afternoon, jujubes ripening,
the faint edge of chaste green on their ruddy cheeks. Such a color.
Not crimson, not scarlet, certainly not vermilion. Perhaps red ochre,
derived from hematite, a dusty, bloody red, oldest of pigments.
See: a hand negative on a cave wall, an ox, paint blown through bone.
Once my menstrual blood left the the shape of a crane, one wing extended,
the other half folded, on a white towel. Once I thought I would never
have a baby. Today, the sky is high, the horses are sleek with autumn fat.
I crave cold noodles in broth and fresh chestnuts. My belly has yet to show.