At Thirty, the Party Is Over
by Choe Young-mi, translated by Kyoo Lee and Sarah Maguire
the revolutionaries were cooler than the revolution,
the booze was better than the bar,
and that ‘O My Comrade’ anthem
(though I did hum along to those corny love songs).
But what the hell —
the party is over,
the booze has run dry, wallets are emptied and, finally,
even he’s left —
but, although the bill’s been split, and they’ve all got their
and even though the place is deserted —
I know there’s someone still lurking
wiping tables clean for the boss
remembering all the highs and shedding hot tears
someone who knows every word of the unfinished songs
someone — not him — who’ll maybe
set up the tables by morning
who’ll invite them all back
who’ll rig up the lighting and repaint the stage —
sure. But what the hell.
Choe Young-mi lives in Seoul and writes poems that combine urban realism with frequently erotic content. She emerged from the experience of the late 1980s when Korea made the transition from military to democratic government. This poem comes from her 1994 collection Seuron Janchineun Kkunnat-da. Find the original poem in Korean, or read more about the poem, poets, and translation process at the Poetry Translation Centre website.