Spring of Jirisan Mountain: Part Four –Climbing Over the Rocky Plateau by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Yun Ju-ok

Spring of Jirisan Mountain: Part Four
–Climbing Over the Rocky Plateau
by Koh Jung-hee

Beautiful they are—
azaleas rolling over the Rocky Plateau.
Giddy is the pink river water
that flows like shimmering fresh blood.
Washing off the sweat flowing from my forehead,
I look down upon the ridges beneath my feet,
and wonder, where does history flow?
The longing gathering on the mountaintop is getting greener,
and the wind of Moojin Field* is weeping in a choked voice
in the forest of dried-up trees silenced, like Heaven’s punishment.
Again I have to climb over that ridge
following the winding, uphill road.
I have to climb, treading with my whole body
the ridges of death that lie quietly face down.
I have to climb over those ridges of despair,
holding a knife against that world,
but keeping the longing within that paints the western sky.
Beyond this desolate life,
beyond this gushing love,
I should arrive at the field of Home filled with wild milk-vetch,
listening to that ice-covered mountain breaking up
that nobody can tread upon.
Tearful they make me—
azaleas rolling over the Rocky Plateau.
Giddy is the pink river water
that flows like shimmering fresh blood.

*A former term for the region of Gwangju

지리산의봄 4–세석고원을넘으며고정희

아름다워라
세석고원 구릉에 파도치는 철쭉꽃
선혈이 반짝이듯 흘러가는
분홍강물 어지러워라
이마에 흐르는 땀을 씻고
발 아래 산맥들을 굽어보노라면
역사는 어디로 흘러가는가,
산머리에 어리는 기다림이 푸르러
천벌처럼 적막한 고사목 숲에서
무진벌 들바람이 목메어 울고 있다
나는 다시 구불거리고 힘겨운 길을 따라
저 능선을 넘어가야 한다
고요하게 엎드린 죽음의 산맥들을
온몸으로 밟으며 넘어가야 한다
이 세상으로부터 칼을 품고, 그러나
서천을 물들이는 그리움으로
저 절망의 능선들을 넘어가야 한다
막막한 생애를 넘어
용솟는 사랑을 넘어
아무도 들어가지 못하는 저 빙산에
쩍쩍 금가는 소리 들으며
자운영꽃 가득한 고향의 들판에 당도해야 한다
눈물겨워라
세석고원 구릉에 파도치는 철쭉꽃
선혈이 반짝이듯 흘러가는
분홍강물 어지러워라

Jirisan Mountain is located in the southern region of South Korea, spanning three provinces: North and South Jeolla, as well as Gyeongsang. Throughout Korean history, the mountain has taken up a variety of different meanings, reflecting many writers’ desires and needs of different moments in time. For some Korean writers, Jirisan Mountain is a tragic figure of tumultuous modern Korean history. For others, it has been a figure of the magical, the sacred, the abundant, and the motherly.  For others, Jirisan Mountain has been metaphorized as a mountain of the people and resistance, but also as a mountain of death and resentment, where fierce battles were fought between the end of Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, slaughtering many Koreans. And still yet, for others, the mountain is a space of life and hope that renews the lives of today and tomorrow.

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