Like Water, I Flow by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

The Sumjin River, photographed by Nam Hee-jin

Like Water, I Flow by Kim Nam-ju

On and on, where does water flow?
I ask the water, following water myself.
As I meet the new spring carried in by the brisk eastern wind,
I will flow on and on into a stream,
moisten the pebbles,
wash away the dead skin on the naughty boy’s feet that have sat all winter.

On and on, where does water flow?
I ask the water,
following water myself.
As I meet a farmer in the draught
under summer’s penetrating sun
I will flow on and on into a ditch
to ease the farmer’s worry
and to dampen the rice stalks in the burning field

On and on, where does water flow?
I ask the water, following water myself.
Since the half moon rises upon the hill,
soon Chusok will come.
I will flow on and on over the shallows holding moonlight
to run the water mill and pound rice into flour.

On and on, where does water flow?
I ask the water, following water myself.
Summer followed spring, and now fall deepens.
I too will flow into a deep river gently
and go to a warm port to hibernate.

물 따라 흘러 가면서/ 김남주

흘러 흘러서
물은 어디로 가나
물 따라 나도 가면서 물에게 물어본다
건듯건듯 동풍이 불어 새봄을 맞이했으니
졸졸졸 시내로 흘러 조약돌을
적시고
겨우내 낀 개구쟁이의 발때를 벗기러 가지

흘러 흘러서 물은 어디로 가나
물 따라 나도 가면서 물에게
물어본다
오뉴월 뙤약볕에 가뭄의 농부를 만났으니
돌돌돌 도랑으로 흘러 농부의 애간장을 녹이고
타는 들녘 벼포기를 적시러
가지

흘러 흘러서 물은 어디로 가나
물 따라 나도 가면서 물에게 물어본다
동산에 반달이 떴으니 낼 모래가
추석이라
넘실넘실 개여울로 흘러 달빛을 머금고
물레방아를 돌려 떡방아를 찧으러 가지

흘러 흘러서 물은 어디로
가나
물 따라 나도 가면서 물에게 물어본다
봄 따라 여름 가고 가을도 깊었으니
나도 이제 깊은 강 잔잔하게 흘러
어디
따뜻한 포구로 겨울잠을 자러 가지

Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Chonnam National University. He is known as one of the major resistance poets in South Korea, leading the people’s movement in the 1970s and 80s that ultimately toppled the dictatorship in Korea. Because of his activism, he was imprisoned twice, for more than ten years in total. In prison where paper and pencil were not allowed, he wrote many poems on milk cartons with the nail he made by grinding a toothbrush. These poems were later published in two collected volumes of his prison poetry, The Sunlight on the Prison Bar. His poetry bears witness to the tyranny of dictatorship and the hardships of the oppressed. He published such poetry collections as Requiem, My Sword My Blood, One Fatherland, The Weapon of Love and In This Lovely World. He received the Yun Sang-won Literary Award in 1993 and the National Literary Award in 1994. His poems have also been memorialized by Korean activist, rock singer An Chi-hwan in his album entitled Remember.

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