Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid
Around Chuseok by Kim Nam-ju
In the early evening when the sky began to open its eyes, sparkle, sparkle,
I walked along with my son on the country path of Hometown.
“Daddy, daddy, we pee with a chili pepper, so why do women pee with their bottoms?”
Dumbfounded by my four-year-old’s question,
I looked around to see what I strangely sensed. In the pepper field in the distance,
three girls squatted to do their business naturally.
For some reason
the crescent hanging over the ridge was grinning a large grin.
반짝반짝 하늘이 눈을 뜨기 시작하는 초저녁
나는 자식놈을 데불고 고향의 들길을 걷고 있었다.
아빠 아빠 우리는 고추로 쉬하는데 여자들은 엉뎅이로 하지?
이제 갓 네 살 먹은 아이가 하는 말을 어이없이 듣고 나서
나는 야릇한 예감이 들어 주위를 한 번 쓰윽 훑어 보았다 저만큼 고추밭에서
아낙 셋이 하얗게 엉덩이를 까놓고 천연스럽게 뒤를 보고 있었다.
무슨 생각이 들어서 그랬는지 산마루에 걸린 초승달이 입이
귀밑까지 째지도록 웃고 있었다.
Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994) was born in Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Chonnam National University. He is known as one of the major resistance poets in South Korea, leading the people’s movement in the 1970s and 80s that ultimately toppled the dictatorship in Korea. Because of his activism, he was imprisoned twice, for more than ten years in total. In prison where paper and pencil were not allowed, he wrote many poems on milk cartons with the nail he made by grinding a toothbrush. These poems were later published in two collected volumes of his prison poetry, The Sunlight on the Prison Bar. His poetry bears witness to the tyranny of dictatorship and the hardships of the oppressed. He published such poetry collections as Requiem, My Sword My Blood, One Fatherland, The Weapon of Love and In This Lovely World. He received the Yun Sang-won Literary Award in 1993 and the National Literary Award in 1994. His poems have also been memorialized by Korean activist, rock singer An Chi-hwan in his album entitled “Remember.”