Falling Persimmons by Chŏn Byŏng-gu

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song

Photographed by Hye Hyon

Falling Persimmons by Chŏn Byŏng-gu

On the hill of Kwansan port, overgrown with weeds,
Where the dividing line crosses,
Hoo-doo-dook, Hoo-doo-dook,
Falling Persimmons.

Where only the house remains, its owner gone,
A persimmon tree already for many years
Has been solely ripening persimmons,
And dropping them without sympathy.

If I reach out a hand, I could quickly pick
one red, juicy persimmon,
But the barbed wire that pierces the heart
Blocks even one step.

The piteous persimmon tree,
You too suffer the pain of division.
When will you summon the owner?
When will the day come when he, riding on your branches, will
Pick out persimmons with pleasure?

With the wedding celebration table
Neatly piled with those appealing persimmons
This village’s lasses, they say,
Went to Paju, across the Imjin River, to their grooms;
Their faces, red like persimmons,
Must be deeply wrinkled by now.

Where are the brides of those days?
Though I search beyond the river, I can’t see them.
The red persimmons that I could embrace only in dreams,
Hoo-doo-dook, Hoo-doo-dook.

They strike this heart;
They strike this peninsula,
Crying for the owner, crying for unification.
Hoo-doo-dook, Hoo-doo-dook. Ah, the falling persimmons.

떨어지는 감알/ 전병구

잡초 무성한 관산나루언덕
분계선이 가로 건너간곳에
후두둑 후두둑
떨어지는 감알

주인은 없고 집터만 남은 자리
벌써 몇몇해 한그루 감나무
저 혼자서 감을 익히우고
무정히도 떨쿠고있느냐

손을 내밀면 빨갛게 익은 감 한알
얼른 집어들수도 있으련만
가슴을 찌르는 분계선 철조망이
한걸음도 옮길수 없게 하누나

안타까워라 감나무야
분렬의 고통을 너도 당하니
언제면 주인을 다시 불러오라
네 푸른 아지를 타고
즐거이 감을 딸 그날이 오랴

저렇게도 탐스러운 감알을 고여놓은
잔치상 받고
림진강 건너 파주로 시집 갔다는
이 마을 처녀들
감알처럼 빨갛던 그 얼굴들에
지금은 주름살이 퍼그나 깊어졌으리

그 시절의 그 각시들 어느곳에 있느냐
저 강건너 찾아봐도 볼수 없는 그들
꿈결에나 안아볼 빨간감알
후두둑 후두둑 

이 가슴을 친다
이 땅을 친다
주인을 부르며 통일을 부르며
후두둑 후두둑 아, 떨어지는 감알

(This translation of North Korean poem was originally published in Azalea, Volume 2, 2008)

Chŏn Byŏng-gu has written poems that attempt to capture ordinary lives in North Korea. “A Birthday Table” exemplifies this attempt.

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