Poetry From the May 2013 issue: North Korean Defectors
As harvest season begins, the field slowly reveals its bare body. The thousand-year-old promise is that you reap what you sow. The land of promise stretches out behind the footprints of man. Winds blow. Snow falls. Holding the aching cold of ice in its breast, it passes the long tunnel of summer, spewing pain and nourishment. Then, in silence, it offers up teardrops of rice.
Here in Seoul, there are people who make a fuss about saving rice from death. I don’t understand why rice must survive ahead of those who are crawling toward death.
The greens that have been dried for three days, the roots of trees gnawed and abandoned by beasts in the mountains, and one small sack of barley—mixed together on the stove. Food bartered for your sister’s chastity. Rub your stinging eyes, make sure the smoke rises into the night. So what if I’m a father who’s let his children starve? I’ve shaken hands with this enemy, life, just to stay alive, to stay alive. Facing those who grip their spoons and wait by empty bowls, Seoul is left with too much rice.
This was written during the “Let’s eat more rice” campaign in South Korea. People were urged to consume more locally produced rice as there was too much of it to keep.
© Kim Sung-min. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2013 by Shirley Lee. All rights reserved.
가을걷이가 시작되면서 들판은 서서히 몸통을 드러낸다 받는 것만큼 주기로 한 천년의 약 .
속 약속의 땅은 인간의 발자취 따라 길게 드러눕는다 바람이 분다 눈이 내린다 시린 얼 , . . .
음조차 가슴에 품고 고통과 자양을 토해내는 긴 여름의 터널을 지나 묵묵히 침묵이 눈물 같
은 쌀알을 선물한다.
이곳 서울엔 쌀을 살리자는 사람들이 난리를 낸다 죽어 기는 모든 것 위에 유독 쌀이 살아 .
야 하는 이유를 나는 모르겠다.
삼 일은 우려낸 푸성귀 산짐승이 핥다가 만 나무뿌리들 미궁 깥은 가마 속에서 한 되의 보
리쌀이 버무려진다 누이의 정조와 맞바꾼 것이다 매운 눈을 비벼가며 저녁연기를 피워 올 . .
려라 자식을 굶겨 죽인 아비면 어떠냐 원수 같은 삶과 억세게 악수하며 죽지만 말자 죽지 . ,
만 말자 밥술은 놓지 못하는 불우한 자들의 삶 앞에서도 서울의 쌀은 오늘도 남는다 , .
쌀에 대한 이야기
Kim Sung-minKim Sung-min
Kim Sung-min defected in 1998. He served in the North Korean military until his escape.
Translated from KoreanKorean by Shirley LeeShirley Lee
Shirley Lee was born in South Korea. She is editor of the leading Web site about North Korea by North Koreans in exile, New Focus International. She is also the translator and editor of the memoir and poems of exiled North Korean state poet Jang Jin-sung.
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