Sumjin River: Part Two by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Song Man-kyu

Sumjin River: Part Two by Kim Yong-taek

Lights come alive like that:
the eyes brimming with tears because of live pine twigs.
At the foot of the mountain like a dark, wide skirt
a few houses disappear into darkness,
lights come alive,
and the mountain opens its eyes.
As it gets darker, only the glaring eyes stay open by rubbing them
and float on the Sumjin River as fire blossoms.

Every night, the mountain diminishes the darkness
and Sister revives the fire, rubbing her burning eyes,
taking the tears she collects in her skirt
to the river to cast them away.
Sister, the sound of cold water
surrounding your waist thickly
till the morning comes makes you colder.

So early in the morning
you break the ice with the water jar
and scoop up the water.
No one knows
the only fire blossom left floats
in your water jar.
You fetch the river water,
stepping on columns of white frost.

When the day comes
when all of us gather together, with every chimney smoking,
you will turn off the light on your wedding night,
keeping, for your beloved,
your chastity, your strength.

섬진강2/ 김용택

저렇게도 불빛들은 살아나는 구나
생솔 연기 눈물 글썽이며
검은 치마폭 같은 산자락에
몇 가옥 집들은 어둠 속으로 사라지고
불빛은 살아나며
산은 눈뜨는구나.
어둘수록 눈 비벼 부릅뜬 눈빛만 남아
섬진강물 위에 불송이로 뜨는구나.

밤마다 산은 어둠을 베어 내리고
누이는 매운 눈 비벼 불빛 살려내며
치마폭에 쌓이는 눈물은
강물에 가져다 버린다.
누이야 시린 물소리는 더욱 시리게
아침이 올 때까지
너의 허리에 두껍게 감기는구나.

이른 아침 어느새
너는 물동이로 얼음을 깨고
물을 퍼오는구나.
아무도 모르게
하나 남은 불송이를
물동이에 띄우고
하얀 서릿발을 밟으며
너는 강물을 길어오는구나.

참으로 그날이 와
우리 다 모여 굴뚝마다 연기나고
첫날밤 불을 끌때까지는
너의 싸움은, 너의 정절은
임을 향해 굳구나.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, December, 2011)

Kim Yong-taek (1948- ) was born in Imsil, Jeollabuk-do. With lyrical (often regional) vernacular, he has written many poems about undamaged agricultural communities and the profound beauty of nature. His poetry collections include The Sumjin River, A Clear Day, Sister, The Day Is Getting Dark, The Flower Letter I Miss, Times Like A River, That Woman’s House, and Your Daring Love. He also published essay collections such as A Small Village, What’s Longed for Exists behind the Mountain, A Story of the Sumjin River, and Follow the Sumjin River and Watch. He was awarded the Kim Soo-young Literary Award (1986) and the Sowol Poetry Award (1997). He currently teaches at Woonam Elementary School.

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