HWANG Yu-Won (South Korea) is a poet and translator. He made his debut as a poet, winning the Munhakdongne New Artist award in 2013. His book of poetry Everything in the World, Maximized (2015) won the Kim Soo-young Prize which is considered one of the most important poetry awards in South Korea. In 2019, Hwang published his latest collection You Should See Me in a Crown (2019). Among his works of translations are Bob Dylan’s The Lyrics: 1961–2012, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, as well as the works of Max Porter, David Szalay, John Gardner, Kahlil Gibran and Walt Whitman. Hwang is now completing his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Dongguk.
The Sleeping Habits of Laughing Buddha (Cloth Sack)
I went to the Nakgasa temple in Deungmyeong
and fell asleep touching the belly of Laughing Buddha (Cloth Sack).
Squishy and fat,
a suffocating sleep. . . . .
Even while Laughing Buddha (Cloth Sack), hung over me, beating me,
I did not wake from my dream!
Bloated like a balloon
I spent all night inside Laughing Buddha (Cloth Sack)’s gut.
Even when all the lights were put out
there wasn’t a single darkness.
Dark nights and the like were stuffed into a cloth sack so
the sack became as big as the world darkness belonged to and,
his belly bloated
to the extent of the coverage
of the sleeping night that spread in every direction and
the dirtiness of Laughing Buddha (Cloth Sack) became a dirty so dirty
that all the dirties of this world
became citizens of a nation of dirty that belonged only to him.
Saying this saying today
and saying that saying tomorrow,
because of the incongruent nature of inconsistencies,
everything in the world became something that had to be stuffed in his belly.
When he tries to sleep in some other place,
a new place is added to the world inside him, and
now there is nothing that can’t fit.
The face made while beating a stomach, bom, bom, beating a drum,
the face made while laughing about this and laughing about that,
the face made while Jesus, my God, my stomach’s going to burst!
Yes, that face, it’s a face that attracts luck
even when luck finds that face unattractive. Yes, a face
that expresses something that is almost a threat.
Luck, fortune, because it is always reading that face,
becomes small in front of the face, and
because of the bigness and fatness,
no matter where you roll,
as long as you roll together,
you can go around the world with that face
and not get a single scratch.
His stomach has become as big
as the world has become big
so that there is no difference; no difference
between being in the world inside the Laughing Buddha’s gut
or outside the Laughing Buddha’s gut.
Inside a dream or outside a dream,
inside a stomach or outside an inside-out stomach,
what’s the difference?
The last Laughing Buddha I saw
was laughing like a maniac, tearing his entire body to shreds.
With a noise like air escaping a balloon coming from his anus,
laughing Buddha has become almost completely deflated.
I guess that instead of saying he sleeps anywhere,
it’d be more accurate to say
he covers the place he lies at entirely with his body.
Yes, Laughing Buddha becomes a single, charming blanket.
(Translated by Jake Levine)