Sumjin River: Part Five by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Sumjin River, photography by Bok Hyo-geun

Sumjin River: Part Five by Kim Yong-taek

In this world,
when we feel
our living is parched,
without any sign of subsiding,
go to the riverside at dusk,
gaze at the darkening river
that brings this world in
and takes it away,
dip one end of the dry heart
in the darkening river,
be quenched, and let it go.
After letting go of everything,
without anything left to let go,
only with our poor eyes,
on the dusky river,
will we become alive, little by little,
with our eyes opening like stars
that, as the night deepens,
shine more, alive with longing;
like the few lamps of the heart
that have driven a short wick
deep into the river—
a wick that has no oil left
no matter how much you squeeze–
and have withstood like the dawn
without letting any sparks fly,
washing our eyes
in the dawn river
that brings this world in
and takes it away,
we should live
with eyes of longing,
and stand as one good life
indebted to this earth.

섬진강 5/ 김용택

이 세상
우리 사는 일이
저물 일 하나 없이
팍팍할 때
저무는 강변으로 가
이 세상을 실어오고 실어가는
저무는 강물을 바라보며
팍팍한 마음 한끝을
저무는 강물에 적셔
풀어 보낼 일이다.
버릴 것 다 버리고
버릴 것 하나 없는
가난한 눈빛 하나로
어둑거리는 강물에
가물가물 살아나
밤 깊어질수록
그리움만 남아 빛나는
별빛같이 눈떠 있고,
짜내도 짜내도
기름기 하나 없는
짧은 심지 하나
강 깊은 데 박고
날릴 불티 하나 없이
새벽같이 버티는
마을 등불 몇 등같이
이 세상을 실어오고 실어가는
새벽 강물에
눈곱을 닦으며,
우리 이렇게
그리운 눈동자로 살아
이 땅에 빚진
착한 목숨 하나로
우리 서 있을 일이다.

Kim Yong-taek (1948- ) was born in Imsil, Jeollabuk-do. With lyrical (often regional) vernacular, he has written many poems about undamaged agricultural communities and the profound beauty of nature. His poetry collections include The Sumjin River, A Clear Day, Sister, The Day Is Getting Dark, The Flower Letter I Miss, Times Like A River, That Woman’s House, and Your Daring Love. He also published essay collections such as A Small Village,What’s Longed for Exists behind the Mountain, A Story of the Sumjin River, and Follow the Sumjin River and Watch. He was awarded the Kim Soo-young Literary Award (1986) and the Sowol Poetry Award (1997). He currently teaches at Woonam Elementary School.

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