Monthly Archives: January 2017

Hometown by Baek Seok (고향, 백석)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

I saw a doctor one morning
After lying alone sick in Bukkwan.
The doctor wears a face like Buddha’s and Guan Gong*’s beard
Like a hermit from some country of long ago
Putting out a hand with a long-nailed pinky finger
Feeling my pulse a long time in silence
Suddenly he asks where my hometown is
When I say Pyungando Jeongju
So it’s the hometown of Mr. So-and-so he says.
When I say then do you know Mr. So-and-so?
The doctor smiles a little
We’re bosom buddies he says and strokes his beard.
When I say he’s like a father to me
The doctor once again smiles to himself and
As he wordlessly takes my arm to feel my pulse
His touch is so warm and soft
My hometown, my father and my father’s friend were all there.

**deity name for Guan Yu

poem in original Korean

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Sleet by Gi Hyeong-do (진눈깨비, 기형도)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

*

In good time sleet falls blown here and there
Inside my coat pocket there is a stiff hand
That snow, trudging through streets I don’t know,
Will wander between guys and buildings
I’ve never even seen once before
A rectangular brown envelope falls down over the snowy road, I pause in the
    middle of bending over and
I think: I made quite a few resolutions graduating from college
The sleet falls, there’s nothing to be surprised at, you fickle legs
I once read about this kind of road home in some novel
Memories called forth many times through my shoe soles are stepped on
In a dark alley there is an empty truck stopped with its lights on
Drunken guys fall down, I remember the day sleet fell scattering
There was a time in my youth when I’d ride the bus all day long
Near an old white wall some people in a group brush off the snow
Sleet pours, suddenly tears flow, I’m unhappy

*

It wasn’t this, I’ve gone through a life time’s worth of experience, sleet

*

Original Korean version


musing #1

 

When there are no customers I peregrinate around the bookstore and read bits here and there.  Now I pick up in turn Barchester Towers and Conrad’s Victory and read the first chapter of each. What strikes me: Trollope’s description of the grief of the woman servant, who closes the old bishop’s eyes after his death, as a “casual grief”; she dabs at her eyes with a corner of her apron, as servants everywhere must do.  And Axel Heyst is bald! – something I do not remember at all from the first reading. I would like to be skewered by an incisive satirist from the nineteenth century, like Thackery – what a relief that would be, as if a doctor had at last diagnosed a mysterious ailment that you’ve been pondering on your own for ages.


Night of Counting Stars by Yun Dong-Ju (별 헤는 밤, 윤동주)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

*

The sky where the season passes
is brimming with fall

*

Without a worry
I think I will count all the stars of fall

*

The stars that engrave themselves in my heart — one, two
The reason I can’t count them all now
is that morning comes easily
is that tomorrow night remains
is that my youth is not over.

*

The memory in a single star and
The love in a single star and
The loneliness in a single star and
The longing in a single star and
The poem in a single star and
Mother, Mother in a single star,

*

Mother, for each star I try to say a lovely word. The names of the kids I shared a desk with in grade school, Pae, Kyung, Ok, such names of the native girls, the names of girls who’ve already become mothers of babies, the names of poor neighbors, pigeons, puppies, rabbits, mules, deer, Francis Jamme, Rainer Maria Rilke, I try to say the names of such poets.

*

They are too far away.
Just as the stars are a long way off.

*

Mother,
and you are far away in Bukgando.

*

I long for something
and so on top of this hill where the starlight falls
I try to write the letters of my name
and cover it up with dirt.

*

To be sure the bug that stays up all night crying
does so because the shameful name saddens it

*

However, when winter passes and spring also comes to my star
as the green grass grows above the grave
over the hill where my name is buried
grass will grow thick like pride itself.

*

original Korean

About the poet Yun Dong Ju


“Let Us Forget” as sung by Song Chang-sik

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Listen to the song here.

Lightly, nimbly, let us forget

The sad dream we dreamt in the night

Like darkness that fades in the morning rays

Let us forget

Let’s pretend it never was

The fire we made together

The sand castle we built

Let’s pretend it never happened

na na na na na

na na na na na

na na na na na

na

na na na na na

na na na na na

na na na

na

na

na

Often, often, let’s look for it again

After much time has flowed

Carefully, carefully, just a little

Let’s look for it again

[instrumental]

na na na na na

na na na na na

na na na na na

na

na na na na na

na na na na na

na na na

na

na

na

Often, often, let’s look for it again

After much time has flowed

Carefully, carefully, just a little

Let’s look for it again

Carefully, carefully, just a little

Let’s look for it again

*I could not ascertain who wrote the lyrics.


선뜻 선뜻 잊읍시다
간밤 꾸었던 슬픈 꿈일랑
아침 햇살에 어둠 가시듯
앚어 버립시다

없던 일로 해 둡시다
함께 피웠던 모닥불도
함께 쌓았던 모래성도
없던 일로 해둡시다

가끔 가끔 찾읍시다
오랜 세월이 흐른 뒤에
조심 조심 아주 조금씩
다시 찾읍시다

가끔 가끔 찾읍시다
오랜 세월이 흐른 뒤에
조심 조심 아주 조금씩
다시 찾읍시다
조심 조심 아주 조금씩
다시 찾읍시


Invocation of the Dead by Kim So-wol

(translated from the Korean by geul)

O shattered name!
O name parted from me in mid-air!
O name without owner!
O name I’ll call until I die!

The words left in my heart,
In the end, I wasn’t able to utter all.
O you whom I loved!
O you whom I loved!

The red sun is hanging from the western summit.
The herd of deer also cry sadly.
Atop the mountain that’s sitting, fallen off to the side,
I call your name.

I call your name til I can’t bear the grief of it.
I call your name til I can’t bear the grief of it.
The sound of my call sweeps forward but
sky and earth are too far apart.

Though I turn to stone standing here
O name I’ll call until I die!
O you whom I loved!
O you whom I loved!

*The title in Korean is cho-hon (초혼), which means calling out to the dead. There is an old Korean funeral custom in which a survivor of the deceased (female if the deceased is male and vice versa) goes up on the roof and holding a (traditional) blouse of the deceased with both hands, flutters it facing north and calls out the deceased’s name three times.


산산이 부서진 이름이여!

허공 중(虛空中)에 헤어진 이름이여!

불러도 주인(主人) 없는 이름이여!

부르다가 내가 죽을 이름이여!

심중(心中)에 남아 있는 말 한 마디는

끝끝내 마저 하지 못하였구나.

사랑하던 그 사람이여!

사랑하던 그 사람이여!

붉은 해는 서산(西山) 마루에 걸리었다.

사슴의 무리도 슬피 운다.

떨어져 나가 앉은 산(山) 위에서

나는 그대의 이름을 부르노라.

설움에 겹도록 부르노라.

설움에 겹도록 부르노라.

부르는 소리는 비껴 가지만

하늘과 땅 사이가 너무 넓구나.

선 채로 이 자리에 돌이 되어도

부르다가 내가 죽을 이름이여!

사랑하던 그 사람이여!

사랑하던 그 사람이여!

Listen to it being recited in Korean here.


“San-yu-wha” (산유화) by Kim So-wol

(translated from the Korean by geul)

In the mountain a flower blooms
a flower blooms
no matter fall spring summer
a flower blooms

 

In the mountain
in the mountain
the blooming flower
thus alone stays in bloom

 

a little bird crying in the mountain
fond of the flower
lives
in the mountain

 

In the mountain a flower fades
a flower fades
no matter fall spring summer
a flower fades


산에는 꽃 피네
꽃이 피네
갈 봄 여름 없이
꽃이 피네

산에
산에
피는 꽃은
저만치 혼자서 피어 있네

산에서 우는 작은 새요
꽃이 좋아
산에서
사노라네

산에는 꽃 지네
꽃이 지네
갈 봄 여름 없이
꽃이 지네


The Road by Kim So-wol

Yesterday too
at the home of the wanderer
crows caw caw cawing
I stayed up all night.

Today
how many more miles
where shall I go?

Shall I go up the mountain?
to the field?
No place is calling, so I can’t go.

That’s nothing, my home
Jeong-ju, Kwak Mountain
cars go and boats go there too.

Hullo there, in the air
that goose
Do you fare well because there’s a road in the air?

Hullo there, in the air
that goose
I stand in the middle of a crossroad with ten paths.

Here, there, here, there forks the road
though the road forks
for me there is no road at all to take.

 

(translated from the Korean by geul)


“Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love” — performed by Kim Kwang-seok

lyrics by Ryu Geun (translated from the Korean by geul)

Listen to the song here

After sending you away far
Like saying farewell to an autumn bird
After leaving sending you away
If I return to sit in front of a drink
Tears well up
After sending you away
watching starlight all fade
words left unsaid that flow down from my eyes
That love that hurts — could I ever erase it

One day on the street when rain falls scattering like
a memory
Become a lonely person, I lower my head, your
voice
Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love

One day I brush past a shoulder dampened by the
wind
when my weary hours are reflected in a window
you become hateful
Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love
Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love

Let’s never return to the world as love
Let’s bury the words we longed for, the
unfinished love
Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love
Love that hurts so, wish it weren’t love

lyrics in Korean