Stairs by Kwak Je-gu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

Stairs by Kwak Je-gu

One day
on the forest trail
that reaches from the riverside
to the hut where I live
I resolutely made wooden stairs
so that their creaking cries
would come when I stepped,
more melodic than mountain cuckoo cries.
The day
will come
when you visit my cottage
and step on these stairs.
Even though it will be the time
when the god who loved me deeply
will also visit ready to open his bundles,
saying, look, this is the thing
you’ve been looking for all along; with longing,
I will, without failing, be able to listen
to you stepping on my wooden stairs.
Regardless of the god’s presence,
I will start to run after you on the forest trail by the riverside.

계단/ 곽재구

강변에서
내가 사는 작은 오막살이집까지
이르는 숲길 사이에
어느 하루
마음먹고 나무 계단 하나
만들었습니다
밟으면 삐걱이는
나무 울음소리가 산뻐꾸기 울음
소리보다 듣기 좋았습니다
언젠가는 당신이
이 계단을 밟고
내 오막살이집을 찾을 때
있겠지요
설령 그때 내게
나를 열렬히 사랑했던
신이 찾아와
자, 이게 네가 그 동안 목마르게 찾았던 그 물건이야
하며 막 봇짐을 푸는 순간이라 해도
난 당신이 내 나무계단을 밟는 소리
놓치지 않고 들을 수 있습니다
그리고는 신과는 상관없이
강변 숲길을 따라 달려가기 시작할 것입니다

4 thoughts on “Stairs by Kwak Je-gu

    • Thanks for the question. I think that the speaker’s waiting for his beloved is so dedicated that even a god’s arrival would not distract him from his waiting for his own love. That’s how I took it. Hope it makes some sense to you. Thanks for reading my translations.

      • Ah. I was wondering if there was some Buddhist context here, as in, ‘My desire for my beloved is so strong that even enlightenment/a Buddha would not stop me’.

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