Word 1 by Noh Hyang-rim

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Word 1 by Noh Hyang-rim

Without explanation,
Word would sometimes
lean alone on the apartment’s veranda rail
to watch the sun set
and disappear suddenly somewhere
into darkness.

Word appears to have
bone and flesh. For awhile
it is out of touch, and then
one day it stands outside
the window in a dark place
or unexpectedly runs from the first
floor to the fifth, thumping.

Often I see it wandering
around the village in the day
and in the night. But I have never
seen the face of Word.
I can’t touch it either.

Word now is wind
or a person who lives in the air.

.1/ 노향림

어떤 말(言語)인지 말은 가끔
아파트 베란다에 걸터앉아
저녁해가 지는 것을 혼자
바라다 보기도 하고 훌쩍
어둠 속 어디엔가 사라져

말에게도 뼈가 있고 살이
있는가 봅니다. 한동안
소식이 끊겼다가 어느날은
어둑하게 창밖에 서 있거나
느닷없이 1층에서 5층까지
쿵쿵쿵 소리를 냅니다.

어느 때는 매일 밤 매일 낮
온 동네를 소리없이 헤매다니는 것을
봅니다. 그러나 말의 얼굴은
단 한번도 본 적이 없읍니다.
만져볼 수도 없읍니다.

–말은 이제 바람이거나
허공에 사는 사람인지도

The Floor by Noh Hyang-rim

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Lee Sang-youp

The Floor by Noh Hyang-rim

Cleaning the living room with a scrub rag
rubbing off the languor and time
that covered it thinly
cleaning the small space
of concerns and worries
covered with birch wood imported from America–
I also silently rub my niece’s slumber
who sleeps at midnight on the other side of the globe.
Who is it
that scrubs the back of my soul
that has been worn out?
Who is it
that owns such a scrub rag?

마루/ 노향림

마른 걸레로 거실을 닦으며
얇게 묻은 권태와 시간을
박박 문질러 닦으며
미국산 수입 자작나무를 깐
세 평의 근심 걱정을 닦으며
지구 저쪽의 한밤중 누워 잠든
조카딸의 잠도 소리 없이 닦아준다
다 해진 내 영혼의 뒤켠을
소리 없이 닦아주는 이는
그런 걸레 하나쯤
갖고 있는 이는 누구일까

Noh Hyang-rim (1942- ) is from Haenam, Jeollanam-do and studied English at Jung-ang University in Seoul. She has published poetry collections such as Travel to K Town, A Country Where Snow Doesn’t Fall, A Person Without Longing Can’t See Aphae Isle, A Broken Bell Sound Comes from the Sun. In 1987 she received the Korea Literary Award for A Country Where Snow Doesn’t Fall.