Persimmons of Jiri Mountain by Heo Su-kyung

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Jiri Mountain; photography by Ha Sung-mok


Persimmons of Jiri Mountain by Heo Su-kyung

With the wind of late autumn,
drenched persimmons fall.
The blue ridge of Jiri Mountain fades into white,
covering the husbands’ corpses,
What a red day,
on the very top branch
of the persimmon tree on Jiri Mountain?
Why are they stuck on the frozen sky, shuddering?–
like the kids who end up wearing dry tears
in the corners of their eyes
as they work through their constipation,
like the husbands who spit out persimmon seeds
and disappeared into the fading sunset
glowing with flocks of geese,
who cannot plead their guilt or ask for forgiveness.
With every footstep, anyone who walks
through the modern history of Korea
passes through a storm of white persimmon flowers.

지리산 감나무/ 허수경

늦가을 바람녘
비 맞은 감이 지네.
남정들 썩은 삭신을 덮고
허옇게 허옇게 지리산 청마루도 흐려지는데
지리산 감나무 맨 윗가지
무신 날이 저리 붉은가.
얼어 붙은 하늘에 꽉 백혀 진저리치고 있는가.
된 똥 누다누다
눈꼬리에 마른 눈물 달은 자식들처럼
감씨 퉤 퉤 뱉다 기러기떼
선연한 노을 끝으로 숨어버린 남정들처럼
잘못도 용서도 구할 수 없는
한반도 근대사 속을
사람 지나간 자취마다 하얗게 쏟아지는

Jiri Mountain is located in the southern region of South Korea, spanning three provinces: North and South Jeolla, as well as Gyeongsang. Throughout Korean history, the mountain has taken up a variety of different meanings, reflecting many writers’ desires and needs of different moments in time. For some Korean writers, Jiri Mountain is a tragic figure of tumultuous modern Korean history. For others, it has been a figure of the magical, the sacred, the abundant, and the motherly.  For others, Jiri Mountain has been metaphorized as a mountain of the people and resistance, but also as a mountain of death and resentment, where fierce battles were fought between the end of Japanese colonial rule and the Korean War, slaughtering many Koreans. And still yet, for others, the mountain is a space of life and hope that renews the lives of today and tomorrow.