The Gourd Dipper by Shin Dal-ja

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

The Gourd Dipper by Shin Dal-ja

From a temple well deep in the mountain,
I drink water with a gourd dipper.
Living trees, waking stars.
As I drink water
which has flowed for thousands of years since antiquity,
I become awake.
So this is a gourd dipper.
They took down the round moon
floating above the thatched roof,
scooped out the inside like white rice,
and from it made a bowl of nature.
The beggars used it to ask for rice,
and, when it cracked apart,
my maternal grandmother sewed it up
to hold life again.
It looked poor but gentle.

바가지/ 신달자

산속 깊은 절간 우물에서
표주박으로 물 마신다
살아 있는 나무 깨어 있는 별
수천 년 흘러온 태곳적 흐르는
물 마시니
나 깨어난다
그래 이거 바가지다
초가지붕 위에 덩그렇게 뜬 둥근달을 내려
흰쌀밥 같은 속 파내고
그것으로 자연의 그릇을 만들어 사용했다
바가지로 거지들 밥 얻기도 하고
바가지 금 가면
외할머니 바늘로 꿰매어
다시 삶을 담았다
궁핍했으나 순해 보였다

(Originally published in Gwangju News, July 2012)

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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