Passing by Happy Rehabilitation Center and the Hungry Bridge by Ra Hee-duk

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid


Hakdong District, Gwangju, Korea

Passing by Happy Rehabilitation Center and the Hungry Bridge by Ra Hee-duk

Once or twice a day
I pass over the Hungry Bridge via the Happy Rehabilitation Center.
On the way to and from the house,
even when I am not happy at all,
or even when I am not hungry,
I have to pass these places.
At the center’s main entrance
there is an unusually high speed bump,
so even if I drive slowly my whole body still shakes.
When I pass among
the children with their faces distorted or legs limping
and a mother with a faint smile waiting across the street,
a thought arises
that living with a normal body is itself a kind of speeding,
but my car is already passing over the Hungry Bridge.
The bridge was named so because of its sunken middle,
and along the river banks low ceilings line up one after another.
Pumpkin vines on the shabby walls
and ivy on the bridge’s sides cross the world in low crawlings.
I pass the Changuk rice-cake shop across the Hungry Bridge.
The shop’s mill often has its mouth closed.

Happy Rehabilitation, Hungry Rice-cake–
crossing over a high or low bump of my heart,
the engine suddenly makes a clunking sound
as if to say that the road I travel to and from the house
should always pass through the language of contradiction.

행복재활원 지나 배고픈다리 지나/ 나희덕

하루에 한 번 혹은 두 번
행복재활원 지나 배고픈다리를 지난다
집에서 나와 집으로 가는 길
전혀 행복하지 않을 때도
배고프지 않을 때도 그곳을 지나야 한다
행복재활원 정문 앞에는
유난히 높은 과속지방턱이 있어
아무리 천천히 지나도 온몸이 흔들린다
얼굴이 일그러지거나 다리를 저는 아이들,
길 건너 마중 나온 엄마가 희미하게 웃고 있을 때
그 사이를 지나노라면 정상적인 몸으로
사는 일 자체가 일종의 과속이라는 생각이 들지만
차는 어느새 배고픈다리를 건너고 있다
가운데가 푹 꺼져 있어 붙여진 이름이라 하는데
천변을 끼고 낮은 지붕들이 늘어서 있다
누추한 담벼락에는 호박덩굴이,
다리 옆구리에는 담쟁이가 낮은 포복으로 세상을 건너고
배고픈다리 건너 창억떡집,
떡집의 제분기는 입을 다물고 있을 때가 많다

행복한재활, 배고픈창억,
그 높거나 낮은 마음의 턱을 넘으며
엔진은 갑자기 그르릉 소리를 낸다
집에서 나와 집으로 가는 길이란
늘 그 모순형용을 지나야 한다고 말하는 것처럼

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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