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.

A Spring Day by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Kang Jang-won

A Spring Day by Kim Yong-taek

If you are looking for me,
and all you find is a hoe covered with soil
in the kitchen garden,

just know that I have gone
to admire plum blossoms,
following the spring water of the Sumjin River,
holding a lovely woman’s hand.

봄날/김용택

나 찾다가
텃밭에
흙 묻은 호미만 있거든

예쁜 여자랑 손잡고
섬진강 봄물을 따라서
매화꽃 보러 간 줄 알그라.

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.

Sumjin River: Part One by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

"Sumjin River," painted by Song Man-kyu

Sumjin River: Part One by Kim Yong-taek

Follow the Sumjin River during the drought.
Even though those wretches steal it time and time again,
brooklets of Jeolla-do collect like capillaries and flow
in the dusk, on the darkening  riverbank.
It decorates the clover like white rice, and
the milk-vetch like charcoal fire.
It draws in darkness
to the riversides of villages that don’t appear on maps
and to plants that don’t appear in plant encyclopedias,
and ceases the darkness.
It hangs up a flower-patterned lamp
that enlightens the darkening brows.
As it flows and flows, and gets choked up,
it calls in the branch that flows into the Youngsan River
and, out of joy, embraces it enough to crush its bones.
Follow the Sumjin River
that turns around the plump Jiri mountainside,
and see if its water will dry up
when those wretches rush in and steal it away.
Watch Jiri Mountain wash its face in the dusky river
and rise up with hearty laugh to look at Mudeung Mountain
to ask if it is true, and Mudeung Mountain glowing in the sunset
will nod its bright brow and agree with Jiri Mountain.
Follow the Sumjin River to see if it will dry up
just because some wretches steal it away.

섬진강 1/ 김용택

가문 섬진강을 따라가며 보라

퍼가도 퍼가도 전라도 실핏줄 같은
개울물들이 끊기지 않고 모여 흐르며
해 저물면 저무는 강변에
쌀밥 같은 토끼풀꽃,
숯불 같은 자운영꽃 머리에 이어주며
지도에도 없는 동네 강변
식물도감에도 없는 풀에
어둠을 끌어다 죽이며
그을린 이마 훤하게
꽃등도 달아준다
흐르다 흐르다 목메이면
영산강으로 가는 물줄기를 불러
뼈 으스러지게 그리워 얼싸안고
지리산 뭉툭한 허리를 감고 돌아가는
섬진강을 따라가며 보라
섬진강물이 어디 몇 놈이 달려들어
퍼낸다고 마를 강물이더냐고,
지리산이 저문 강물에 얼굴을 씻고
일어서서 껄껄 웃으며
무등산을 보며
그렇지 않느냐고 물어보면
노을 띤 무등산이
그렇다고 훤한 이마 끄덕이는
고갯짓을 바라보며
저무는 섬진강을 따라가며 보라
어디 몇몇 애비 없는 후레자식들이
퍼간다고 마를 강물인가를.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, December, 2011)

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.

"Sumjin River," painted by Kim Seon-soo

Sumjin River: Part Two by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Painted by Song Man-kyu

Sumjin River: Part Two by Kim Yong-taek

Lights come alive like that:
the eyes brimming with tears because of live pine twigs.
At the foot of the mountain like a dark, wide skirt
a few houses disappear into darkness,
lights come alive,
and the mountain opens its eyes.
As it gets darker, only the glaring eyes stay open by rubbing them
and float on the Sumjin River as fire blossoms.

Every night, the mountain diminishes the darkness
and Sister revives the fire, rubbing her burning eyes,
taking the tears she collects in her skirt
to the river to cast them away.
Sister, the sound of cold water
surrounding your waist thickly
till the morning comes makes you colder.

So early in the morning
you break the ice with the water jar
and scoop up the water.
No one knows
the only fire blossom left floats
in your water jar.
You fetch the river water,
stepping on columns of white frost.

When the day comes
when all of us gather together, with every chimney smoking,
you will turn off the light on your wedding night,
keeping, for your beloved,
your chastity, your strength.

섬진강2/ 김용택

저렇게도 불빛들은 살아나는 구나
생솔 연기 눈물 글썽이며
검은 치마폭 같은 산자락에
몇 가옥 집들은 어둠 속으로 사라지고
불빛은 살아나며
산은 눈뜨는구나.
어둘수록 눈 비벼 부릅뜬 눈빛만 남아
섬진강물 위에 불송이로 뜨는구나.

밤마다 산은 어둠을 베어 내리고
누이는 매운 눈 비벼 불빛 살려내며
치마폭에 쌓이는 눈물은
강물에 가져다 버린다.
누이야 시린 물소리는 더욱 시리게
아침이 올 때까지
너의 허리에 두껍게 감기는구나.

이른 아침 어느새
너는 물동이로 얼음을 깨고
물을 퍼오는구나.
아무도 모르게
하나 남은 불송이를
물동이에 띄우고
하얀 서릿발을 밟으며
너는 강물을 길어오는구나.

참으로 그날이 와
우리 다 모여 굴뚝마다 연기나고
첫날밤 불을 끌때까지는
너의 싸움은, 너의 정절은
임을 향해 굳구나.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, December, 2011)

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.

Sumjin River: Part Three by Kim Yong-taek

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Sumjin River painted by Song Man-kyu

Sumjin River: Part Three by Kim Yong-taek

You must be attached to this.
Watching the sun set,
the glittering ripples rush in continuously
and seep deeply into you and the water’s edge across the river.
Beloved, without your knowing,
you must be attached to the place where the water is deep.
Flowers bloom–they wither in no time;
even flower seeds wither.
Leaning your heart against the plant leaf
on which white snow fell,
you came this far to stand.
When you arrived, the sun set,
thirsting for water, and you stood in front of the water,
feeling sorrowful, joyful, and happy,
and cried, your two shoulders shaking out of love.
You must have planted your longing deep under the water.
Though you didn’t have anybody you waited for,
you returned from the water’s edge and treaded up the night path.
Because your eyes were familiar with
each stone and each blade of grass on this path,
you must have been attached to this land.
The village where the light becomes alive little by little,
longs for the love that it must cultivate.
Your thin back that I watch quietly from afar
without your knowing
must have borne a pretty love.

섬진강3/ 김용택

그대 정들었으리.
지는 해 바라보며
반짝이는 잔물결이 한없이 밀려와
그대 앞에 또 강 건너 물가에
깊이 깊이 잦아지니
그대, 그대 모르게
물 깊은 곳에 정들었으리,
풀꽃이 피고 어느새 또 지고
풀씨도 지고
그 위에 서리 하얗게 내린
풀잎에 마음 기대며
그대 언제나 여기까지 와 섰으니
그만큼 와서 해는 지고
물 앞에 목말라 물 그리며
서러웠고 기뻤고 행복했고
사랑에 두 어깨 깊이 울먹였으니
그대 이제 물 깊이 그리움 심었으리.
기다리는 이 없어도 물가에서
돌아오는 저녁 길
그대 이 길 돌멩이, 풀잎 하나에도
눈 익어 정들었으니
이 땅에 정들었으리.
더 키워나가야 할
사랑 그리며
하나둘 불빛 살아나는 동네
멀리서 그윽이 바라보는
그대 야윈 등,
어느덧
아름다운 사랑 짊어졌으리.

(Originally published in Gwangju News, December, 2011)

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.

Sumjin River painted by Song Man-kyu