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.

Who Would Say He Doesn’t Know the Day? By Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Melanie Steyn

Mangwol Cemetery in Gwangju

Who Would Say He Doesn’t Know the Day? By Koh Jung-hee

The spirit,
the spirit who sleeps at Mangwol cemetery!
My tears flow though the sky is blue;
my tears flow, for the flowers bloom on the mounds and fields.

Who would say he has forgotten the day?
Who would say he doesn’t know the day?
The spirit that revives from heart to heart,
stands high above these times of biting winds.

Azaleas paint all the mountains red,
the blood tears of that day dye the mounds and fields.
A mother, rubbing the flower-tears on her heart,
calls your name and weeps.

Freedom stays alive behind the history of sacrifice.
Though it disappears from this age, the flower of democracy will bloom.
As the wind of reunification blows on the road I left,
tears well up at the spring news of national liberation.

누가 그날을 모른다 말하리/ 고정희

넋이여,
망월동에 잠든 넋이여
하늘이 푸르러 눈물이 나네
산꽃 들꽃 피어나니 눈물이 나네

누가 그날을 잊었다 말하리
누가 그날을 모른다 말하리
가슴과 가슴에서 되살아나는 넋
칼바람 세월 속에 우뚝 솟은 너

진달래 온 산에 붉게 물들어
그날의 피눈물 산천에 물들어
꽃울음 가슴에 문지르는 어머니
그대 이름 호명하며 눈물이 나네

목숨 바친 역사 뒤에 자유는 남는 것
시대는 사라져도 민주꽃 만발하리
나 떠난 길 위에 통일의 바람 부니
겨레해방 봄소식 눈물이 나네

Koh Jung-hee (1948 – 1991) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do, and studied at Hanshin University. A passionate feminist, she often offered sharp criticism on modern Korean society, whether it was political oppression or gender inequality. In June, 1991, she died, swept up by a torrential rain, while climbing up the Snake Valley of Jiri Mountain, a mountain she loved a great deal and wrote about often. Known for resistance poetry, particularly based upon the Gwangju Uprising, as well as for lyric poems, she derived many of her poetic inspirations from Gwangju and Jeolla-do (often known as Nam-do). In her lifetime she published at least ten collections of poetry and received the Korean Literature Award in 1983.

The Rice Ball of Tears by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

The Rice Ball of Tears by Koh Jung-hee (1948-1991)

The rice ball on which even the angel of death shed tears,
the rice ball over which sisters and brothers sobbed:
have you eaten the rice ball of Gwangju?
The rice ball that makes a fire pillar rise up after you eat it,
the rice ball that makes the Youngsan River roll up and down
when you share it:
have you eaten the rice ball of freedom?
The rice ball mixed with Mother’s blood tears
at the floor of the Hakdong Market
and at the Yangdong Market,
the rice ball seasoned with the sisters’ wailing
at Hwajungdong, on Hwasun Neorit Hill,
on Kumnam Street, and at Sansoodong:
have you eaten the rice ball of sanctuary?
Have you eaten the rice ball of community?
Oh, love, love, love,
the apocalyptic river water of May,
the people who will run to Gwangju, toward Gwangju
until we climb up Mudeung Mountain, Lake Chunji of Baekdu Mountain,
climbing over Lake Baekrock of Halla Mountain,
wash the snow and the rice in the deep blue lakes of Baekrock and Chunji
that will feed more than sixty million people
and share the rice ball of reunification,
the rice ball of equality,
the rice ball of humanity,
let us flare up as rice and firewood
at the home where dim evening smoke rises at dusk.

눈물의 주먹밥/고정희

저승 사자들도 눈물 흘린 주먹밥
형제자매 뜨겁게 오열하던 주먹밥
광주의 주먹밥 먹어보았나
삼키면 불기둥 일어서는 주먹밥
나누면 영산강이 굽이치는 주먹밥
자유의 주먹밥 먹어보았나
학동 시장바닥에서
양동 복개상가에서
어머니의 피눈물로 버무린 주먹밥
화정동에서 화순 너릿재에서
금남로에서 산수동에서
자매들의 통곡으로 간을 맞춘 주먹밥
해방구의 주먹밥 먹어보았나
공동체의 주먹밥 먹어보았나
사랑이여 사랑이여 사랑이여
오월의 종말론적 강물이여
무등산에 백두 천지연 올라
백두 천지연에서 한라 백록담 올라
백록담과 천지연 그 시퍼런 물에
육천만 먹고 남을 쌀 씻고 눈 씻어
통일의 주먹밥 나누는 그날까지
평등의 주먹밥
인류의 주먹밥 나누는 그날까지
광주로 광주로 달려갈 겨레여,
해거름녘 저녁연기 아련한 고장
우리 쌀과 장작불로 타오르고 타오르자

Koh Jung-hee (1948 – 1991) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do, and studied at Hanshin University. A passionate feminist, she often offered sharp criticism on modern Korean society, whether it was political oppression or gender inequality. In June, 1991, she died, swept up by a torrential rain, while climbing up the Snake Valley of Jiri Mountain, a mountain she loved a great deal and wrote about often. Known for resistance poetry, particularly based upon the Gwangju Uprising, as well as for lyric poems, she derived many of her poetic inspirations from Gwangju and Jeolla-do (often known as Nam-do). In her lifetime she published at least ten collections of poetry and received the Korean Literature Award in 1983.

 

Epitaph in the Mangwol Cemetery by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Y.S. Paek

Epitaph in the Mangwol Cemetery:
In Memory of Hwang Il-bong

How could the karma ravaging one generation
only affect the souls sleeping at Mangwol cemetery?
They started a seed fire to the stacks of the age of darkness,
opening up the wide sky.
They were buried, burnt up like the charcoal of the Hwangsan battlefield.
Today they stop the passing Moon and question.
They ask about the wages of my sin.
How could the scars of the knife that ravaged one generation
be only the wages of my sin?
When I face the Moon, I feel like a philistine,
and know a bunch of mums is just not enough.
As I meet with your only remaining eye, rising as the Moon,
I feel ashamed.
Today all I add is my helplessness,
my light that won’t even cover up one plot.

망월리 비명(碑銘) – 황일봉에게 / 고정희

한 세대 긋고 지난 업보가 어디
망월리에 잠든 넋뿐이랴만
한 시대가 쌓아올린 어둠의 낟가리에
불쏘시개 되어 하늘 툭 틔우고
황산벌 숯가마로 묻힌 저들이
오늘은 가는 달 붙잡고 묻는구나
내 죄값을 달에게 묻는구나
한 세대 긁고 지난 칼 자국이
어디 내 죄값뿐이랴만
내가 달과 마주 서니 속물일 뿐이어서
국화 한 다발도 속될 뿐이어서
달로 떠오르는 네 외짝눈과 만나니
부끄럽구나
한 평 땅 덮지 못할 내 빛
무력한 근심이나 보태는 오늘

All Things that Disappear Leave a Space Behind by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

All Things that Disappear Leave a Space Behind by Koh Jung-hee

Mother who sleeps in the grave
has left a large space in the family graveyard–
she has left a space larger than her words.
At dusk, I hike up the hill
and sit under the space of the red pine field.
All kinds of trivial talk that I picked up from Seoul,
following the stream of Release,
flow into the middle of the field and then into the sea.
Things that flow into the sea and remain invisible,
becoming the tight wind that strikes the mountain bird’s ankle,
raise a greater space once more
and disappear down a faraway trail.

The round space, the byway
that remains behind all the things that disappear!
The existence that rises up after all the absence!
The space is loneliness,
loneliness is also a space,
so the space is creation.

The day I disappear from you,
after all the weeds of my heart are gone,
I too want to remain as a tranquil space,
like an evening glow hung over your twig gate
or a creek swiftly flowing under your feet,
under the space where you sit.

모든 사라지는 것들은 뒤에 여백을 남긴다/ 고정희

무덤에 잠드신 어머니는
선산 뒤에 큰 여백을 걸어두셨다
말씀보다 큰 여백을 걸어두셨다
석양 무렵 동산에 올라가
적송밭 그 여백 아래 앉아 있으면
서울에서 묻혀온 온갖 잔소리들이
방생의 시냇물 따라
들 가운데로 흘러흘러 바다로 들어가고
바다로 들어가 보이지 않는 것은 뒤에서
팽팽한 바람이 멧새의 발목을 툭, 치며
다시 더 큰 여백을 일으켜
막막궁산 오솔길로 사라진다

오 모든 사라지는 것들 뒤에 남아있는
둥근 여백이여 뒤안길이여
모든 부재 뒤에 떠오르는 존재여
여백이란 쓸쓸함이구나
쓸쓸함 또한 여백이구나
그리하여 여백이란 탄생이구나

나도 너로부터 사라지는 날
내 마음의 잡초 다 스러진 뒤
네 사립에 걸린 노을 같은, 아니면
네 발 아래로 쟁쟁쟁 흘러가는 시냇물 같은
고요한 여백으로 남고 싶다
그 아래 네가 앉아 있는

 

Autumn Letter by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Kim Kyung-sang

Autumn Letter by Koh Jung-hee

The day Autumn waited to ripen,
it swelled to the edge of the Black Dragon River.
Despairing that my love couldn’t ripen,
I cut off the road that led to you,
but inside my heart was a road
and I couldn’t cut off the road of my heart.

The day Autumn deepened spectacularly,
it illuminated the foothills of Sumi Mountain.
Angry that my love couldn’t deepen,
I closed the door that opened toward you,
but inside my heart was a door
and I couldn’t close up the door of my heart.

Wet with the tears of inky rain,
Autumn turned around and left me.
Sorrowful that I couldn’t let go of my love,
I cut off the branch that reached out to you,
but inside my heart were bountiful branches
and I couldn’t cut off a branch of my heart.

Though I cut the road and closed the door,
though I close the door and cut the branch,
you arrive as the evening river.
Though, with a horse’s bit, I restrain myself from longing,
though I press down the sprouting thought of you with a rock,
you shake as the vast field of grass.
Since even the sun and the moon cannot rest upon that field,
again I might have to open another road.
Again I might have to open another door.

Bound for the South by Koh Jung-hee

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won (Mudeung Mountain in Gwangju, Korea)

Bound for the South by Koh Jung-hee

When the moon is full in mid-July, envisioning home,
I run down the road to Haenam, the place that I miss–
the road I take to watch the evening glow below Mother’s grave,
the road the typhoons Thelma, Alex, Vernon, and Win swept over,
the road that the floods ravaged and devilish waters shredded.

The end of the peninsula, the clouds of solitary spray.
Giving my heart to the South, to the South,
I suddenly want to bow, putting my two hands together.
Passing the Honam Plain, I want to bow.

The rice stalks that sway vibrantly
are like the veins of Father hunching over the field.
The horseweed flowers that bloom wildly
are like Mother’s attentive care that lingers
around the mountains and streams of my home.

The Mudeung Mountain that rises up purely,
the white-naped crane that hops,
the white poplar tree that dazzles–
today these do not look ordinary,
and I want to bow to the picturesque landscape.
I want to kneel down and kiss the land of the South.

남도행/ 고정희

칠월 백중날 고향집 떠올리며
그리운 해남으로 달려가는 길
어머니 무덤 아래 노을 보러 가는 길
태풍 셀마 앨릭스 버넌 윈이 지난 길
홍수가 휩쓸고 수마가 할퀸 길

삼천리 땅 끝, 적막한 물보라
남쪽으로 남쪽으로 마음을 주다가
문득 두 손 모아 절하고 싶어라
호남평야 지나며 절하고 싶어라

벼포기 싱싱하게 흔들리는 거
논밭에 엎드린 아버지 힘줄 같아서
망초꽃 망연하게 피어 있는 거
고향 산천 서성이는 어머니 잔정 같아서

무등산 담백하게 솟아 있는 거
재두루미 겅중겅중 걸어가는 거
백양나무 눈부시게 반짝이는 거
오늘은 예삿일 같지 않아서
그림 같은 산과 들에 절하고 싶어라
무릎 꿇고 남도땅에 입맞추고 싶어라

(Originally published in The Gwangju News, August, 2011)