The “Well scene” in ‘Butterfly Sleep’ – Kim Kyung-ju

Cabaret Wittgenstein presents here a scene in Jake Levine’s English translation from Butterfly Sleep, by South Korean author Kim Kyung-ju. As the translator has explained to us via email, Butterfly Sleep is what Kyung-ju calls a 시국, where 시 is poetry, and the 국 is play. Poetry Play. This is the  first scene from Act 3.

 

Act 3. Donuimun (the West Gate).
The Rain Calling Ceremony

Scene 1. The well

Inside the fortress. Inside a dry well (The lowest part of the fortress).
In order to save her child that fell,
a mother crawls down the narrow well
and gets her body stuck.
Hanging upside down, the mother’s
legs are the only thing anyone can see from outside the well.
In the darkness inside the well
the mother and daughter speak
and their voices ring.
Like a black tide,
like water flowing on the moon,
sloshing around,
their voices clang
as several hours pass.

Sitting on the roof,
someone wearing a mask
is watching.

Child: Mama.

Mother: Yes, yes, it’s Mama.

Child: Mama.

Child: Mama.

Mother: Mama’s here.

Child: I’m scared, Mama.

Mother: It’s all right, baby.

Child: It’s all right, it’s all right.

Mama: Yes, that’s right. That’s right

Child: Mama, it’s black.

The mother reaches out a hand.

The child reaches out a hand.
The child is out of breath.

Child: I can’t breathe.

Mama: Hold my hand tight.

Child: I’m holding on.

Child: Mama, I keep crying. Mama, I keep getting sleepy.

Mother: Baby, don’t fall asleep. You can’t fall asleep. People will find us and get us out. Don’t let go of my hand.

Child: Don’t let go of my hand.

Mama: No, no, I won’t.

Child: Mama.

Child: Mama.

Mother: Yes?

Child: Mama, you’re here, right?

Mother: I’m here.

The mother is out of breath.
The child is out of breath.

Mother: You were scared, weren’t you?

Child: Yes, Mama. Scared you’d never come.

Mother: Baby, no matter where I am, I always hear the sound of your breathing. I’m your mom. No matter where you go, I’ll always hear your cry.

Child: Mama?

Child: Mama?

Mother: Y-yes, baby.

Child: Mama, why are you crying? Your tears are falling on my eyes.

Mama: Baby . . . My baby.

The child and the mother are out of breath.

Child: Don’t talk, Mama. I’ll hold your hand tight. Don’t come down anymore, Mama.

Mother: M-mama . . . won’t l-let go. Of. Y-your hand . . . until we. Get. Out.

The mother is out of breath.

Child: Mama, I’ll push you out of here.

Mother: Don’t, don’t.

Child: What if people don’t find us?

Mother: Don’t think bad thoughts. Just think of Mama. That I’m beside you.

Child: Yes, Mama.

Silence

Child: I’m sleepy.

Mother: Sleep, my baby . . . Sleep
Sleep . . . my (interval) baby, sleep
Go to the moon (interval) and (interval) dream
Loyal child. Devoted child (interval)
My . . . baby (interval), don’t you weep

(Almost inaudible, completely gone
as if her breath is vanishing within itself,
sounding like a moon slushing full of water,
with the moon in her mouth, about to cry)

Sleep . . . wind, sleep (interval)
Take my baby
Sleeping soundly
When baby closes her eyes
Shut my eyes for me

Sleep . . . wind, sleep (interval)
Take my baby
Sleeping soundly
When baby closes her eyes
Close my eyes for me

Lullaby 2

Child: Mama? Mama?

Mother . . .

Gasping,
the sound of breathing dims
as the mother’s breath gently touches the walls of the well.

Child: Mama . . . Mama.
Mama! Mama . . .

The child cries.
One by one her cries turn to sobs.

Child: Don’t sleep, Mama. Don’t sleep, Mama . . .

The child is out of breath.
Hiccups.
Hiccups.
The child’s breaths grow shorter, shallower.

Almost inaudible, almost completely gone,
as if her breath is vanishing within itself,
sounding like the slushing of the moon, full of water,
with the moon in her mouth, about to cry.

Child: Mama . . . Thank you. I knew . . . you would come for me . . .

Dopp dopp.
The sound of
the child’s teardrops falling
to the bottom of the well.
Dopp dopp.
The sound of the mother’s teardrops
falling onto the child’s face.
Dopp.
Dopp.
The child’s breaths gently stop.
The tide gently swells.
Inside the well
breath scatters.

§

Kim Kyung-ju (also Kim Kyung Ju) is a South Korean poet, playwright and performer,  born in Gwangju in 1976. He has studied philosophy at Sogang University and his first book of poetry, I Am A Season That Does Not Exist In This World, was published in 2006, establishing him as one of the most widely read poets of his generation.

Kim Kyung-ju has written pornographic novels and provided services as a ghost writer, and has translated several books of poetry, essays, and plays. His work is heavily anthologized in Korea. In 2009 he was awarded Today’s Young Artist Prize by the Korean government and the Kim Su-Young Literature Prize. Kim Kyung-ju lives in Seoul.