One of Ko Un's very short poems, translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and available on the Brief Poems blog, goes as follows:

Some say they can recall a thousand years
Some say they have already visited the next thousand years
On a windy day
I am waiting for a bus

Is there any connection, ironic or otherwise, between the first two lines and the last two lines? Is the point of the poem just to create a contrast, between people who say they can time travel through millennia and the mundane (in)activity of waiting for a bus? Why waiting for a bus specifically? Is it a wry comment that the bus is so slow it may take a thousand years to arrive?

2 Answers 2


Your speculations in the question about what the contrast might mean are on point. Specifically, the poem moves from grandiose claims to mundane reality. The claims are about the past (recall) or the future (next thousand years); the reality is the present (am waiting). That the day is windy underlines the contrast between reality (cold wind) and the claims (hot air). Or perhaps there's a continuity rather than a contrast between the bluster of the time travel claims and the windiness of the day.

The speaker's waiting for a bus also brings the claims of traveling through time with traveling through space. While others claim to have mastered time travel, the speaker is trying merely to get from one place to another, and hasn't even begun the bus journey.

  • Well. I'd realised the poem was pointing up contrast, of course, but that's a lot of parallels! Cold wind vs hot air is my favourite :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 23, 2020 at 9:30
  • 1
    Does "hot air" translate into Korean as a phrase? Of course it's possible that the author was thinking of the English metaphor even while writing in Korean. Dec 23, 2020 at 18:09
  • @user3067860 Well, the translator probably was in any case ... no?
    – verbose
    Dec 24, 2020 at 7:24
  • @verbose I don't know how much poetry would be translated literally vs figuratively, I guess it obviously depends on limitations of the languages involved, and maybe the communication between the translator and the author. So I guess I also have a question about if the original was literally "a windy day" or not, which might suggest if the translator added meaning. Dec 24, 2020 at 13:24

Standing at a bus stop waiting for your bus to come is one of the most frustrating and boring activities known to man. The author is saying that it can seem like a thousand years pass.

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