A Yard At Night


Ko Un

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 104 in 2001.

The kids have been playing boisterously in the yard,
even kids from the neighboring village.
Somehow the dogs didn't bark, just wagged their tails.
But the whole village has been playing noisily,
even the banished chicks and hens.
It was no place for adults
with their coughs of alarm.
Hopscotch, shuttlecock-kicking, scissors-paper-stone,
to say nothing of running to the spring,
winning, losing, time knowing no end.
No need for mother, in her wet apron,
to keep coming and going to see if they're alright.
The noisy play is fine, so very fine.
No trace of any other world at all.
Why should tomorrow or the day after ever come?
The children, there were ten or twenty of them,
the whole country is full of kids like these.
Then the Beggar's Star shone early in the sky,
After twilight, came night.
It became hard to recognize each other's faces
and one by one they set off homewards.
Thank heaven children have names!
"Illyong-a, Samryong-a, Kuryong-a, Mansop-a! "
Especially, that children have names in the dark.
Behind them, the chicks flap up to their perches
in the coop, defying hunger; just before,
they were pecking hungrily at one another.
In the empty yard, where have the noisy games all gone?
Over the not-so-very-lofty mountain,
other stars rise, freely following
the Beggars' Star, announcing their presence
by little light they can muster.
How could the world beyond not be down here?
All night long the wind sleeps, dew falls,
while the other world comes, plays, then goes.
When the first cock crows at early dawn
the others follow suit, from house to house.
Now is the time for blind folks to gaze off into the distance.
In their sleep, the children are still kicking off the blankets,
growing up to be sleepy-heads just like their fathers.