Front of a Tree

by Ko Un

Look at the man from the back.
If there were a god
would that be how he looked
on earth?

Even a tree
has a front and a back,
not just because of sunlight,
not just because of north and south.
When I meet a tree in front
and part from it behind
I miss it.

Though the tree can’t say a word
when it hears of love
its leaves wave in the breeze.
New leaves of a new year
are more freshly green than the old.
No one can stop the turning of leaves
at the end of summer.
No break
between a man and a man
can cut the ties with autumn leaves.
“Stay with us!” they whisper.

-from The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems (University of California Press 2006). Translations by Clare You and Richard Silberg