Suncheon Bay by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Suncheon Bay, South Korea; photography by Jung Yun-seok

Suncheon Bay by Shin Dal-ja

Have your eyes become opaque?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
Has any part in your body become calcified?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
Does sticky black blood come out when you spit?
Let’s go to Suncheon Bay.
At Suncheon Bay, let’s ask what living is.
When you go out toward the wetlands by Ecology Hall,
you will meet hooded-crane families.
Let’s ask them why they live there.
When you meet swans, yellow-beaked spoonbills, and black headed seagulls,
let’s ask why they resist the temptation of the warm city to spend winter there.
Let’s ask the reeds who weather the cold, brushing off their dry bodies—
reeds who lean their dry bones into one another,
as though they want to share one another’s warmth,
and swallow up toxic phlegm.
Let’s strain our ears to that moist wetland
that constricts its body densely, stretching out its black limbs as much as it can,
stepping closer with palpitations of loud quiet, clean breath of life.

순천만/ 신달자

눈앞이 슬슬 흐려지는가
순천만 가자
몸 안 어느 곳이 석회처럼 굳어지는가
순천만 가자
침을 뱉으면 끈적끈적한 검은 피가 나오는가
순천만 가자
순천만 가서 우리 살아 있는 것이 무엇인지 물어보자
순천만의 자연 생태관을 거쳐 갯벌 쪽으로 나가면
흑두루미 가족을 만나 왜 거기 사느냐고 물어보자
큰고니며 노랑부리저어새며 검은머리갈매기를 만나
왜 따뜻한 도시의 유혹을 물리치고 거기에서 겨울을 나느지
마른 몸들끼리 부딪치며 추위를 이기는 갈대들
서로 온기 나누려느지 서로 마른 뼈를 기대고
밭은기침을 삼키는 갈대들에게 물어보자
검은 사지를 있는 대로 뻗으며 촘촘히 제 몸을 조이는
저 촉촉한 습지에 귀 기울여 보자
깨끗한 생명의 숨소리가 왁자하게 고요한
울렁거림으로 다가서서

Shin Dal-ja (1943- ) was born in Geochang, Gyeongsangnam-do. She studied Korean literature at Sookmyung Women’s University. She taught creative writing at Pyongtaek University and Myungji College. Her poetry collections include Father’s Light, Passionate Love, The Long Talking Relationship, and Paper.  She also has written several collections of essays including The Poet’s Love, You Remember These Three Things, and At Forty,  I Learned the Baby-Steps of Life. Her literary awards include The Korea Literature Award, the Modern Buddhist Literature Award, and Youngrang Poetry Award.

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