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)

2 thoughts on “Bound for the South by Koh Jung-hee

  1. Jann Hoge wrote: “This poem is truly awesome J.P… thank you so much to you and Anne for your work translating it. Reading it now is starting my day off with very good perspective on life in this world. Thank you… : )”

  2. This is so beautiful! When I am up on a mountain looking out over Gwangju, I sometimes feel the like I need to pay some respects or thank God in some way for what I see.

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