In the Island’s Sunlight by Ra Hee-duk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Sorokdo Island, Jeollanam-do, Korea

In the Island’s Sunlight by Ra Hee-duk

The sunlight of the island resembling a young deer was warm.
One can reach the island in five minutes by boat from Port Nokdong,
but you can only get to this place
after crossing unfathomable waves of the heart.
On the near yet far island,
the wounded deer lived.
Apparently inside the island’s sunlight
the sounds you could not hear anywhere else melted away.
But I can’t say I understood the light.
Just now, coming out of the autopsy room
the pouring sunlight seemed to shout something.
Boys who stand in a circle holding the net with their fingerless hands
produce a few fluttering fish.
The man who jumped into the sea, relied upon a raft.
The old lady knitted flowers with only three fingers left.
The sobbing  mother  had to meet her children only with her eyes,
without ever holding their hands, separated across a street.
The pine trees stood in the place where eighty four lives were burnt.
All lived as if they didn’t exist at all, not at all.
Didn’t they weep across the sea, overwhelmed only with their pain?
Under the sunlight, hot like a roar,
a crab with red legs was crawling.
The shadow of a forest where a lost crab hid–
the trees pruned by these rotting hands were beautiful.
The laughing sound of a young woman walking
with a wheelchair, carried her mother missing two legs.
I couldn’t enter into either the sunlight or the shadow.

그 섬의 햇빛 속에는/ 나희덕

어린 사슴을 닮았다는 섬의 햇빛은 따가웠다.
녹동항에서 배로 오 분이면 닿을 수 있는 섬이지만
수심을 알 수 없는 마음의 물결을 건너야만
이를 수 있는 곳, 그 가깝고도 먼 섬에
상처 입은 사슴들이 살고 있었다.
그 섬의 햇빛 속에는
다른 데서 들리지 않던 소리들이 녹아 있는 것 같았다.
그러나 그 햇빛을 이해했다고는 말할 수 없다.
시체를 해부했던 검시실을 막 나왔을 때
쏟아지는 햇빛이 무어라 외치는 것처럼 들렸을 뿐이다.
몽당손으로 그물을 잡고 둘러선 소년들이
파닥이는 물고기 몇 마리를 소출로 내놓은 모습도,
뗏목 하나에 의지해 바다로 뛰어들었던 남자도,
세 개밖에 남지 않은 손가락으로 꽃수를 놓던 노파도,
길 양쪽으로 갈라선 채 손 한번 잡지 못하고
눈으로만 피붙이를 만나야 했던 어미의 흐느낌도,
여든네 명의 목숨을 불태웠던 자리에 서 있는 소나무들도,
없는 것처럼 없는 것처럼 살아오지 않았던가.
바다 저편에서 단지 제 고통에 겨워 읊조리지 않았던가.
굉음처럼 따가운 햇빛 아래
다리 붉은 게 한 마리가 기어가고 있었다.
길 잃은 게가 숨어든 숲그늘,
썩어가는 손으로 전지해놓은 나무들은 아름다웠다.
두 다리가 없는 어머니를 휠체어에 태우고
걸어가는 처녀의 웃음소리.
나는 햇빛 속으로도 그늘 속으로도 들어갈 수 없었다.

(Originally published in the Gwangju News, April 2012)

Ra Hee-duk (나희덕) was born in 1966 in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do. She received her Ph.D. in Korean literature from Yonsei University in 2006. She has published six books of poetry: To the Root (1991), The Word Dyed the Leaves (1994), The Place is Not Far (1997), That It Gets Dark (2001), A Disappeared Palm (2004), and Wild Apples (2009). She also published one collection of essays, A Half-filled Water Bucket (1999), and a volume of literary criticism, Where Does Purple Come From? (2003). Among her many literary awards are the Kim Suyoung Literature Award (1998), Modern Literature Award (2003) and the Sowol Poetry Award (2007). Growing up in orphanages, because her father was an administrator at an orphanage, she developed her strong sympathy for the less fortunate others. She currently teaches creative writing at Chosun University in Gwangju.

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