October Poetry: "Cheongomabi / 천고마비" by Hyejung Kook

October 5, 2018

Image Credit: tanakawho via Flickr

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.




Hyejung Kook

Hyejung Kook’s poetry has most recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Massachusetts ReviewThe Ellis ReviewPleiadesThe Indianapolis Review, Prairie Schooner, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Hyejung was born in Seoul, Korea, grew up in Pennsylvania, and now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two young children. She is a Fulbright grantee and a Kundiman fellow.