Cold Rice by Moon Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Hwang Soon-ok

Cold Rice by Moon Jung-hee

Rousing my sick body, I eat cold rice alone—
the ice in the cold rice pokes my throat.
We live in a world where people can cook hot rice so easily
just by pressing a button
on one of the kitchen appliances.
It’s not easy to have cold rice,
but today I eat it alone.
The woman who ate cold rice
made hot rice for the family.
The woman who scrubbed cold rice from the chipped-off bowl,
picking at the radish remnants someone left,
and licking off the fish bones,
radiated the warmest love from her body.
Longing for the hand that rattled alone
even in the deep night,
I rouse my sick body
and eat cold rice.
They say, a god couldn’t be sent to every house,
so she was sent, in lieu of a god.
In the cold rice I eat alone today I meet her,
becoming the cold rice of the world.

찬밥/ 문정희

아픈 몸 일으켜 혼자 찬밥을 먹는다
찬밥 속에 서릿발이 목을 쑤신다
부엌에는 각종 전기 제품이 있어
일 분만 단추를 눌러도 따끈한 밥이 되는 세상
찬밥을 먹기도 쉽지 않지만
오늘 혼자 찬밥을 먹는다
가족에겐 따스한 밥 지어 먹이고
찬밥을 먹던 사람
이 빠진 그릇에 찬밥 훑어
누가 남긴 무 조각에 생선 가시를 핥고
몸에서는 제일 따스한 사랑을 뿜던 그녀
깊은 밤에도
혼자 달그락거리던 그 손이 그리워
나 오늘 아픈 몸 일으켜 찬밥을 먹는다
집집마다 신을 보낼 수 없어
신 대신 보냈다는 설도 있지만
홀로 먹는 찬밥 속에서 그녀를 만난다
나 오늘
세상의 찬밥이 되어

(Originally published in The Gwangju News, January, 2012)

Mun Jung-hee (1947- ) was born in Bosung, Jeollanam-do. She received her Ph.D. from Seoul Women’s University. She made her literary debut in 1969 in The Literature Monthly. Her poetry collections include The Baby Brier, For Men, Now Following the Rose, I am the Door, The Joy of Love, and The Prolific Virgin. She received such prestigious awards as the Modern Literature Award and the Sowol Poetry Award. 

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