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.

About the poet Yun Dong Ju

——-

계절이 지나가는 하늘에는
가을로 가득 차 있습니다.

나는 아무 걱정도 없이
가을 속의 별들을 다 헤일 듯합니다.

가슴 속에 하나 둘 새겨지는 별을
이제 다 못 헤는 것은
쉬이 아침이 오는 까닭이요,
내일 밤이 남은 까닭이요,
아직 나의 청춘이 다하지 않은 까닭입니다.

별 하나에 추억과
별 하나에 사랑과
별 하나에 쓸쓸함과
별 하나에 동경(憧憬)과
별 하나에 시와
별 하나에 어머니, 어머니

어머님, 나는 별 하나에 아름다운 말 한마디씩 불러봅니다.
소학교 때 책상을 같이 했던 아이들의 이름과 패, 경, 옥 이런
이국 소녀들의 이름과 벌써 아기 어머니된 계집애들의 이름과,
가난한 이웃 사람들의 이름과, 비둘기, 강아지, 토끼, 노새, 노루,
‘프랑시스 잠’, ‘라이너 마리아 릴케’, 이런 시인의 이름을 불러 봅니다.

이네들은 너무나 멀리 있습니다.
별이 아스라이 멀듯이.

어머님,
그리고, 당신은 멀리 북간도에 계십니다.

나는 무엇인지 그리워서
이 많은 별빛이 내린 언덕 위에
내 이름자를 써 보고,
흙으로 덮어 버리었습니다.

딴은 밤을 새워 우는 벌레는
부끄러운 이름을 슬퍼하는 까닭입니다.

그러나, 겨울이 지나고 나의 별에도 봄이 오면,
무덤 위에 파란 잔디가 피어나듯이
내 이름자 묻힌 언덕 위에도
자랑처럼 풀이 무성할 거외다


“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