Don’t Sing of May as a Blade of Grass that Withers in Wind by Kim Nam-ju

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Don’t Sing of May as a Blade of Grass that Withers in Wind
by Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994)

Don’t sing of May as a blade of grass that withers in wind.
May didn’t come lyrically like wind,
nor did it lie lyrically like a blade of grass.

May came with a beast’s blood-stained claws.
May came with the teeth of crazy dogs hungry for blood.
May came with the soldier’s bayonet cutting the pregnant mother’s womb.
May came gorging on the children’s eyes that popped out like bullets.
May came with American tanks that trampled down the breath of freedom.

Don’t sing of May as a blade of grass that withers in wind.
May didn’t come lyrically like wind,
nor did it lie lyrically like a blade of grass.

May rose with the wailing of an angry lion.
May rose with the blood-stained hair of the slaughtered young woman.
May rose with the last scream that destroyed men shout.
It was the Freedom’s suicidal attack that jumped into the forest of guns and swords.
It was the hammer heated in the fire at the ironworks.
It was the kitchen knives of the boys who rushed out of the restaurants.
It was the rice ball rolled by the innocent lips of barmaids.
It was the dynamite where all the human emotion toward injustice
congealed in love and exploded in hatred.

Don’t sing of May as a blade of grass that withers in wind.
Wind is not fitting poetic language for the beast’s claws.
Don’t sing of May as a blade of grass that withers in wind.
Grass blades are not fitting poetic images for the blood battle resisting massacre.
There is no room for the lyrical to stand
in between the bloody massacre and the armed resistance.
Nor does it deserve a place–
not in Gwangju streets in May of 1980!

바람에 지는 풀잎으로 오월을 노래하지 말아라/ 김남주

바람에 지는 풀잎으로 오월을 노래하지 말아라
오월은 바람처럼 그렇게 서정적으로 오지도 않았고
오월은 풀잎처럼 그렇게 서정적으로 눕지도 않았다

오월은 왔다 피묻은 야수의 발톱과 함께
오월은 왔다 피에 주린 미친개의 이빨과 함께
오월은 왔다 아이 밴 어머니의 배를 가르는 대검의 병사와 함께
오월은 왔다 총알처럼 튀어나온 아이들의 눈동자를 파먹고
오월은 왔다 자유의 숨통을 깔아뭉개는 미제 탱크와 함께 왔다

노래하지 말아라 오월을 바람에 지는 풀잎으로
오월은 바람처럼 그렇게 서정적으로 오지도 않았고
오월은 풀잎처럼 그렇게 서정적으로 눕지도 않았다

오월은 일어섰다 분노한 사자의 울부짖음과 함께
오월은 일어섰다 살해된 처녀의 피묻은 머리카락과 함께
오월은 일어섰다 파괴된 인간이 내지르는 최후의 절규와 함께
그것은 총칼의 숲에 뛰어든 자유의 육탄이었다
그것은 불에 달군 철공소의 망치였고
그것은 식당에서 뛰쳐나온 뽀이들의 식칼이었고
그것은 술집의 아가씨들의 순결의 입술로 뭉친 주먹밥이었고
그것은 불의의 대상을 향한 인간의 모든 감정이
사랑으로 응어리져 증오로 터진 다이너마이트의 폭발이었다

노래하지 말아라 오월을 바람에 지는 풀잎으로
바람은 야수의 발톱에는 어울리지 않는 시의 어법이다
노래하지 말아라 오월을 바람에 일어서는 풀잎으로
풀잎은 학살에 저항하는 피의 전투에는 어울리지 않는 시의 어법이다
피의 학살과 무기의 저항 그 사이에는
서정이 들어설 자리가 없다 자격도 없다
적어도 적어도 광주 1980년 오월의 거리에는!

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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