From Korea…

The vacant building of the American Cultural Center,

now an abode of silence, reluctantly

receives a visitor, unlocking

two padlocks and an iron-barred gate;

a strip of empty air is hung at the flagpole

where the Star Spangled Banner had been fluttering

forty-two years. What then has America left here,

80 Hwangkum-dong, very near the 5.18 Square

where the citizens in the bloody whirlwind screamed for

Democracy and Liberty?

The dust sitting mute on chairs in the reading room,

the iron bars stark at attention in window frames,

bricks, closed doors, panes of bulletproof glass,

and some questions unquenchable in everyone’s mind…

Ah, the land’s old cries several sparrows are

scattering in the quadrangle of the American

Cultural Center; I gaze up into the deep blue heaven

through the shadows falling to pieces, One heaven

of five thousand years the Korean paulownia branches support.

To where winds this road along now? Rise on wings

the prophetic songs above the scars and separate land,

breaking the heavily-built white silence, turns the history

its hidden dark face above the amicable hands

that have been shaking forty-four years. Yet you would say

Self-reliance doesn’t lie in blaming others for your own

sores nor in isolating yourself. We’d better learn

from a tree how to be in touch with winds and how to grow

without bending to a seasonal wind. Then as we

might open Korean Cultural Centers in any city

of the U.S., why can’t the Americans open theirs here?

The vacant building of the American Cultural Center

in the heart of Kwangju City, drearier than ever,

utters monosyllables in metallic voice, hardly

understood, closing its iron-barred gate

and two padlocks as a visitor goes out.

Chang Young-Gil

Graduate student

Chonnam National University

Kwangju, Korea