The Moonrise Hill by Lee Sung-bu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Jiri Mountain; Photography by Ha Sung-mok

The Moonrise Hill by Lee Sung-bu

The moon that rises over Jiri Mountain
doesn’t illuminate grass and trees and roads,
but she shines upon the traces of tears
that won’t come off from inside people’s hearts.
The stars of early autumn look closer
and the sky is a deep blue mirror.
The hearts touched by this moonlight
have disappeared in a row, intermittently,
into the mountain’s shadow, and today,
even the ghosts have stopped their wandering and shouting
and pass between shadows, dropping their heads.
I only glimpsed the moon that rises over the hill–
a moon that has seen me in the midst of quiet and yet has not spoken–
and I have collapsed on the grass to catch my breath.
Every time brightness and shadow rustle together,
I hear lost love, sorrow, and anger
rushing in again.

달뜨기재/ 이성부

지리산에 뜨는 달은
풀과 나무과 길을 비추는 것이 아니라
사람들 마음속 지워지지 않는
눈물자국을 비춘다
초가을 별들도 더욱 가까워서
하늘이 온통 시퍼런 거울이다
이 달빛이 묻은 마음들은
한줄로 띄엄띄엄 산그림자 속으로 사라지고
귀신들도 오늘은 떠돌며 소리치는 것을 멈추어
그림자 사이로 고개 숙이며 간다
고요함 속에서 나를 보고도 말 걸지 않는
고개에 솟는 달 잠깐 쳐다보았을 뿐
풀섶에 주저앉아 가쁜 숨을 고른다
밝음과 그림자가 함께 흔들릴 때마다
잃어버린 사랑이나 슬픔 노여움 따위가
새로 밀려오는 소리를 듣는다

*달뜨기재 지리산 동쪽 웅석봉과 연결된 산줄기의 고개 이름

Jiri 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, Jiri 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, Jiri 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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Spring by Lee Sung-bu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Darcy Brandel

Photography by Chae-Pyong Song

Spring by Lee Sung-bu

You come even though I don’t wait,
even when I have abandoned waiting itself.
You linger around the edges of mud flats
or rotten puddles,
you distract easily, get into fights,
fall on your back, tired,
and when the wind, who rushes to you with urgent news,
wakes you up, shaking, you come slowly, rubbing your eyes.
Slowly, slowly, at last, what should come comes.
You look so dazzling
I cannot get up to face you.
Though I open my mouth to shout,
my voice is hardened,
and I cannot forewarn anyone.
With difficulty, I open my two arms to embrace you,
the one who comes from afar, after winning the fight.

/ 이성부

기다리지 않아도 오고
기다림마저 잃었을 때에도 너는 온다.
어디 뻘밭 구석이거나
썩은 물웅덩이 같은 데를 기웃거리다가
한눈 좀 팔고, 싸움도 한 판 하고,
지쳐 나자빠져 있다가
다급한 사연 듣고 달려간 바람이
흔들어 깨우면
눈 부비며 너는 더디게 온다.
더디게 더디게 마침내 올 것이 온다.
너를 보면 눈부셔
일어나 맞이할 수가 없다.
입을 열어 외치지만 소리는 굳어
나는 아무것도 미리 알릴 수가 없다.
가까스로 두 팔을 벌려 껴안아 보는
너, 먼 데서 이기고 돌아온 사람아.

(Melanie Steyn has read the earlier version of this translation.)

Lee Sung-bu (1942 – 2012) was born in Gwangju. He studied Korean Literature at Kyunghee University. His published books of poetry include Our Bread, Traveling to Baekje, The Eve, Plain, and Leaving behind the Empty Mountain. Among his literary awards are Modern Literature Award and Korean Literature Writers Award.