A Few Quick Words

At last I understand what blank margins are.
Margins are not incompleteness,
nor the familiar spaces left untouched by the brush
in old Korean paintings.

They arise in valleys where desire for completeness has melted
—there, yes, there—before tomorrow dawns.

Ah, chaste omission of action.

Bourgeois? Never.
Margins have nothing bourgeois about them.
Nor are margins
cowardly pauses in battle.
Beyond battle
they form part of a face
neither friend nor foe
never met as yet.

They’re skirts billowing wide, mile upon mile,
though they may not move very far;
and fragrant,
so fragrant!

Brother, the mightiest of powers is not America,
it’s the margins in the millennia of human history.
Oh, subtle ache in my heart!
At last, one part of the cosmos is being reborn.
But not the whole.

Wanting the whole would be wicked, my brother.

—Ko Un
translated by Brother Anthony of Taize, Young-moo Kim and Gary Gach