Tamjin River 18 by Wi Sun-hwan

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

"Starry Night over the Rhone" by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Tamjin River 18 by Wi Sun-hwan

The swarm of insects rubs against the sky with their wings–
they wore out and all fell down,
and now the stars are buzzing.

The stream of the river is bright; so are the insteps of my feet.
On a pitch dark night that blackened my eyes and ears,
I walked, groping my way,
following the stream
that flowed slower than my steps,
How long did I walk?
With a gait slower than the stream,
how long did I listen for the footsteps
following me with steps slower than mine?

At midnight a constellation would descend upon my back.

I continued to walk along, following
the stream. A few stars floating down the water
flickered and looked back at me,
anxiously murmuring many words–
I couldn’t even comprehend one or two of them.

The river’s bottom was packed with stars.

탐진강  18/ 위선환

날벌레떼가 잔 날갯짓을 비벼대던 하늘이다
날벌레들은 닳아서 모두 떨어졌고 지금은 별빛들이 잉잉거리고 있다

  강물줄기가 환하다 내 발등도 밝다

  어느 날은 눈자위 꺼지고 귓속 깜깜한 저녁에

  나는 걸어가며 몇 번이나 더듬대고 내 발걸음보다 더디게 흐르는 물줄기를 따라서 물줄기보다 더딘 발걸음으로 어디까지 오래 걸었던가 내 발걸음보다 더딘 걸음으로 뒤따라오는 발자국 소리를 얼마나 길게 귀 기울여서 들었던가

  자정에는 한 별자리가 내려와 등에 얹혔고

  나는 내내 걸어서 강물줄기를 뒤따라간다 물에 떠 흘러가는 별빛 몇이 깜박이며 뒤돌아보며 걱정스레 두런거리는 여러 말들을 고작 한두 마디도 못 알아듣는다

  강 밑바닥에 별빛이 꽉 찼다

(Originally published in New Writing from Korea, Volume 2, 2009)

2 thoughts on “Tamjin River 18 by Wi Sun-hwan

  1. Beautiful poetry! Are these latest that you posted originally in English? I began following your blog to improve my Korean reading skills(your translations are quite handy) and was disappointed to see no Korean text for these…

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