Five Sijo : By Tim Kahl

The Korean Sijo is an antiquated form in Korean poetry that was prominent in the late fourteenth to early fifteenth century. It was typically sung (each line containing four metric segments —what are called hemistichs—with a minor pause at the end of the second segment and a major one at the end of the fourth). 

The syllable count proceeds as such: 

3/4 4 3/4 4 
3/4 4 3/4 4 
3 5-8 4 3/4 

a logical “leap is employed at the beginning of the third line. Or sometimes this gap/caesura takes shape as a developmental shift. Not unlike the Italian volta in the last two lines of a sonnet, it is considered the crux of the poem. Often there are interjections at the beginning of the third line which address a particular person. 

These sijo are designed to not be reflective of the traditional content of the fifteenth century form which reflected largely on nature. Rather, they comment on the texture of contemporary life. 

–Tim Kahl

Kim Wol-ha [Important Intangible Cultural Asset #30]

Her father gone, her husband dead

     she saved herself with needlework.

After the war she found her voice.

     She sang in parks, cured her ulcer.

The old ones saw ancient songs in her future.

     She died drowning in keepsakes.

Alma Mahler

Reading Kant to calm her labor, 

   he assures her sweet agony.

Yeah, she married a genius,

   but he shrugs off her keen salons.

Bless his heart, he composes in a mountain hut!

   Entertainer he was not.

Behold the Wind

Behold the wind of passing shells.

   Constant combat will take its toll.

Human minds are not made for war.

   Trauma’s wounds rout the seat of soul.

Take cover. The signature of future wars

   will become the suicide.


Confidence in consonants

   causes vowels to slur their lives.

Teeth’s hard edges bend flow of air,

   the old tale of master and slave.

Your Highness, the umlaut must be thwarted.

   It’s undercut the letter t.

The Stubborn Chameleon

Oxycontin suddenly gone,

   addicted to Prozac instead,

she just can’t quit fitting in.

   She became a groupie to groups.

Her nickname was the stubborn chameleon

   and she could press no challenge

Tim Kahl [] is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) The String of Islands (Dink, 2015) and Omnishambles (Bald Trickster, 2019). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Drunken Boat, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban and many other journals in the U.S. He is also editor of Clade Song []. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center. He also has a public installation in Sacramento {In Scarcity We Bare The Teeth}. He plays flutes, guitars, ukuleles, charangos and cavaquinhos. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes.