The Old Hill by Lee Si-young

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photography by Hye Hyon

The Old Hill by Lee Si-young

In my hometown, Woosadool, persimmons may be ripening.
Coming home from school, I would climb the persimmon tree
suffering with a hungry stomach, and sing,
wishing that the autumn sunlight could ripen them,
wishing that the blue sky could ripen frost-laden persimmons.
Swinging my head between the branches,
I would sing mournful songs.
Ah, where did Giltay go?
Holding on to the tree till after the sunset,
Giltay would wipe his tears with his small fist,
gazing at his empty chimney where no smoke did rise.
Ah, where did Giltay go,
leaving behind his lame widow mother
below the persimmon tree?

옛동산/ 이시영

우리 고향 웃사둘 마을에는 감이 익겠지
학교에서 돌아오면 나무에 올라
주린 배를 참으며 노래 불렀지
가을볕 부신 햇살에 감이 익어라고
푸른 하늘 한가득 서리 묻은 감이 익어라고
가지 가지 사이로 머리통을 흔들며
노래 슬픈 노래 불렀지
아 길태는 어데 갔노
저녁이 지날 때까지 나무에 달라붙어
연기 오르지 않는 빈 굴뚝을 바라보며
작은 주먹으로 눈물 훔치던
아 길태는 어데 갔노
다리 저는 홀어머니 감나무 밑에 남겨둔 채

Lee Si-young (1949- ) was born in Gurye, Jeollanamdo. He studied creative writing at Seorabeol College of Arts. Since his literary debut in 1969, he has published poetry collections such as The Full Moon (1976), Into the Wind (1986), Friend, the Road Is Far (1988), The Song Dangling with Dew (1991), The Pattern (1994), The Gap (1996), The Quiet Blue Sky (1997), The Silver Whistle (2003), The Sea Lake (2004), The Aroma of Cow Dung(2005), and For Our Dead (2007). He has received many prestigious literary awards, including The Jung Ji-yong Literary Award (1996), The Dongseo Literary Award (1998), Modern Buddhist Literary Award (2004), The Jihoon Award (2004) and The Baeksok Literary Award (2004). For the last forty years, he has strived to write “poetry, resisting the reality and contradictions of the day.” He currently teaches creative writing at Dankuk University in Seoul.

Poverty by Moon Byung-ran

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Kim Young-ran

“Poverty” by Moon Byung-ran

We all know how tiring it is
for a farmer with five patches of rice fields
to raise four kids and send them to school.
We know a poor citizen without a house
risks his whole life
to get his own house.
Those who have raised kids all know
it is like cutting off your own bone
to raise four kids,
to send them to school like others do,
and to help them find their mates.
To marry one daughter, a pillar of the house disappears
and to send a child to college, you lose a rice patch.
Working even eight hours a day is not enough,
and some work inside and outside to save
yet not enough is made despite all the considerations.
We all know how demanding children’s mouths are–
yet is poverty mere rags?
Should we lie buried alone in the pit like a gem?
Can you quiet today’s hunger,
drinking dull drinks of water, saying it’s all right, it’s all right,
deliberately folding your arms, pretending to turn away?
We can’t raise our kids
the way the green mountain tends to orchids under her feet.
She blooms and withers alone; four seasons come and go.
But children don’t grow by themselves; they can’t eat for themselves.
Husbands should provide for wives,
wives should hold up their husbands.
Humans are born into work, live in work, and die in work
no matter how much the natural heart is like the green mountain.
The intestines are only satisfied with pickled fish.
They go hungry without food
and they defecate with food.
Who can live like an idealist
living alone, drinking only dew and wind?
Those who have only a bowl of barley with bean stew
think of rice as Heaven–
they bow down in front of rice.
While you sing, the whole universe is working together
to bring one chrysanthemum to bloom.
Do you know that in a shadowed corner of this land
a hungry mouth lives asking for a spoonful of rice?
Poverty is not by any means merely tattered rags.
It’s not just the old dress that one puts on and takes off.
When life gets swept up in the rough waves,
it isn’t a pleasure to lazily watch the green mountain in the afternoon.
Poverty is the enemy, the poisonous worm that gobbles us up
and feasts upon even our natural character,
the toxin that rots not just clothes but the flesh, too.
It’s our human enemy, the devil to drive away,
the seeker of pleasure in poverty
who hopelessly nurtures worms in the growling belly.
You say it’s all right, it’s all right,
borrowing Tao Yuan-min’s drinking cup,
imitating Li Bai’s drunken rowdiness.
Don’t deceive yourself.
Don’t defile the hungry mouth
who wants a bowl of rice and bean soup,
trading poverty for a piece of poem.
Oh, the hypocrite poet, the poet
of lullabies who puts people to sleep.

가난/ 문병란

논 닷마지기 짓는 농부가
자식 넷을 키우고 학교 보내는 일이
얼마나 고달픈가 우리는 다 안다
집 한칸 없는 소시민이
자기 집을 마련하는 데
평생을 건다는 것을 우리는 안다
네 명의 새끼를 키우고
남 보내는 학교도 보내고
또 짝을 찾아 맞추어 준다는 것이
얼마나 뼈를 깍는 아픔인가를
새끼를 키워 본 사람이면 다 안다
딸 하나 여우는 데 기둥 뿌리가 날라가고
새끼 하나 대학 보내는 데 개똥논이 날라간다
하루 여덟 시간 하고도 모자라
안팎으로 뛰고 저축하고
온갖 궁리 다하여도 모자란 생활비
새끼들의 주둥이가 얼마나 무서운가 다 안다
그래도 가난은 한갖 남루에 지나지 않는가?
쑥구렁에 옥돌처럼 호젓이 묻혀 있을 일인가?
그대 짐짓 팔짱 끼고 한 눈 파는 능청으로
맹물을 마시며 괜찮다 괜찮다
오늘의 굶주림을 달랠 수 있는가?
청산이 그 발 아래 지란을 기르듯
우리는 우리 새끼들을 키울 수 없다
저절로 피고 저절로 지고 저절로 오가는 4계절
새끼는 저절로 크지 않고 저절로 먹지 못한다
지애비는 지어미를 먹여 살려야 하고
지어미는 지애비를 부추겨 줘야 하고
사람은 일 속에 나서 일 속에 살다 일 속에서 죽는다
타고난 마음씨가 아무리 청산 같다고 해도
썩은 젖갈이 들어가야 입맛이 나는 창자
창자는 주리면 배가 고프고
또 먹으면 똥을 싼다
이슬이나 바람이나 마시며
절로절로 사는 무슨 신선이 있는가?
보리밥에 된장찌개라도 먹어야 하는
사람은 밥을 하늘로 삼는다
사람은 밥 앞에 절을 한다
그대 한 송이 국화꽃을 피우기 위해
전 우주가 동원된다고 노래하는 동안
이 땅의 어느 그늘진 구석에
한 술 밥을 구하는 주린 입술이 있다는 것을 아는가?
결코 가난은 한낱 남루가 아니다
입었다 벗어 버리는 그런 헌옷이 아니다
목숨이 농울쳐 휘어드는 오후의 때
물끄러미 청산이나 바라보는 풍류가 아니다
가난은 적, 우리를 삼켜 버리고
우리의 천성까지 먹어 버리는 독충
옷이 아니라 살갗까지 썩어 버리는 독소
우리 인간의 적이다 물리쳐야 할 악마다
쪼르륵 소리가 나는 뱃속에다
덧없이 회충을 기르는 청빈낙도
도연명의 술잔을 흉내내며
괜찮다 괜찮다 그대 능청 떨지 말라
가난을 한 편의 시와 바꾸어
한 그릇 밥과 된장국물을 마시려는
저 주린 입을 모독하지 말라
오 위선의 시인이여, 민중을 잠재우는
자장가의 시인이여 .

Moon Byung-ran (1935 – ) was born in Hwasun, Jeollanam-do. He taught creative writing at Chosun University as well as in Suncheon High School and Gwangju Jeil High School. He has published such collections as Legitimacy, On the Field of Bamboo Shoots, Ode to the Land, Ode to May, Mudeung Mountain, To the Weaver, and Tchaikovsky of the Dawn. Famous for being a poet of the people, he has made it his mission to represent the under-represented and to resist any form of oppression, especially the military dictatorship in Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

NB: Read Seo Jung-ju’s “Gazing at Mudeung Mountain” as a pair: https://jaypsong.wordpress.com/category/seo-jung-ju/