Master Yi Kyubo
Sitting under a soft green tree,
Listening to the cicadas hum;
I sit at the bottom of the staircase waiting for Master Yi Kyubo.
In concentration, he meditates,
Lifting the wooden brush ready for the first stroke;
The pellet is of fresh, squid black ink,
A smell of charcoal and stone;
The writing begins.
Like a conductor to orchestra,
The starting melody is soft, piccolo, andante;
Then he progresses and slightly whisks his wrist to a faster temp,
Starting at the top right hand corner of the stroll, moving down as he proceeds.
With each tap of the brush to paper,
The ink expands, like a flower blossoming;
Lifting vertically, swaying like the reeds playing,
Conscious of the world around him, his audience needing a voice.
‘They may come, but never to arrive…’,
What may come of the Mongols, he ponders?
The State of Goryeo is like a tree in the wind,
Blown against an uprising storm;
King Myeong-jong is waiting,
Waiting for a response.
So begins ‘Dongmyeong-wang-pyeon’,
A call for defense, loyalty and brave men;
A wave to resist against an impending disaster;
Not a cloud to be seen in the misty sky.
General Choi Chung-heon’s Messenger waits patiently,
This cannot be rushed;
like waiting 7 years for the seeds of a chestnut tree to bear fruit,
The Messenger observes a white snake in the meantime.
Enjoying the breeze,
swallows passing by;
Sun slowly sets,
The poem is ready.
Like a rare diamond, freshly discovered,
Yi looks at his work with pride;
And waits for the ink to dry,
Sensing the day is ready and movement inside, the Messenger advances.
With a quick roll of the scroll,
tied up with a yellow ribbon and wrapped with silk;
It is ready for delivery,
The beginning of Goguryeo’s national consciousness.
Seeing the Messenger on his horse,
Master Yi retreats to the hill side;
Up in the trees, observing sunset,
Effortlessly, rests his eyes.
By Helen Tung
Written October 2016 in memory of Poet Yi Kyubo (1168-1241), Korean scholar, statesman, literary critic, poet and prose writer of the Koryo Period.