the tiger and the persimmon

A retelling of the Korean folktale “the tiger and the persimmon” in kasa form, for the dVerse prompt from Sanaa “Poetics – Exploring the realm of Korean Literature (first stop, Seoul)“:

Tiger comes, black stripes flitting
Between the pines, hunger rumbling.

Down the mountain, golden gingko,
Ginger stripes, flicker faster.

Tiger comes, tail twitching
Above the grass, to the village.

Baby cries, Mother warns him:
“Fox will eat you!”. Still baby cries.

Mother wearies; cooking, cleaning,
No help no peace; too much to do.

Baby cries, Mother threatens:
“Bear will eat you!”. Still baby cries.

Tiger listens – who is this child?
No fear of fox, no fear of bear?

Tiger smells him, sweet fresh blood,
Tiger sees him, plump and round.

Baby cries, Mother desperate:
“Tiger comes! He will eat you!”

Still baby cries. Tiger thinks,
No fear of me? I will eat him!

Tiger listens, Mother says “Look!
A persimmon”… Baby quiets.

Tiger wonders, how fearsome
A beast is this “Persimmon”?

Tiger runs, back to mountain,
Must escape… the persimmon.

I had a short work trip to South Korea about 15 years ago, and I remember walking through a pine forest up a mountain (well, a tall hill), and the gingko trees around the village below. I don’t think there is any other deciduous tree that turns such a clear and perfect yellow as a gingko. I didn’t see any tigers though. 

27 Comments

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27 responses to “the tiger and the persimmon

  1. What a lovely story!!! It reminds me a little of the Gruffalo. I love the descriptions of the tiger. And I love the conquering fruit! And how very beautiful to be able to include the gingkos.

    • Thanks Worms! I went looking for Korean folktales and that one was just so good. 🙂 There’s probably a stand of gingko in the arboretum somewhere. Maybe I’ll remember to go look for them in autumn. I’ll be out of quarantine by then. 😀

  2. tears of a big cat
    and that is not just that

  3. This is lovely, Kate! I so enjoyed this story and it reminded me of Blake’s Tyger.

  4. Excellent retelling of Korean folklore.

  5. sanaarizvi

    This is absolutely stellar writing, Kate! I love that you shared your backstory with us about visiting South Korea and beautiful yellow of Gingko trees, sigh.. lovely, lovely retelling of the Tiger and persimmons tale .. even more so compelling in your poetic hands. Thank you so much for writing to the prompt 💝💝

    • Thank you so much Sanaa! ❤
      It was a great prompt – a new form to play with and an invitation to look at unfamiliar folklore. And for me the bonus of being reminded of an enjoyable trip. It's nice to have things like that to look back on at the moment.

  6. Sanaa is right, this is stellar writing! I know it will be one of my favorite poems.

  7. I love your poem story and your afterword. I’m sure you’re right about the yellow of the ginkgo leaf.

  8. I love this, it’s like a delightful children’s story 🙂 Brilliant, Kate!

  9. Beautiful story!😊👍🌸

  10. Kate, you have drawn a beautiful picture, the sequence of images, clear and lucid, loved it.

  11. I love the tale… and I will look upon persimmons differently from now on.

    • Thanks Bjorn 😀 I used to have stamps for student work – a walrus for good work (closest I could find to a seal), a bunch of grapes for bad work (wrath) and for students who forgot units it was the fruit salad of fury. No persimmon though.

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