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from the April 2014 issue: Writing from South Korea

Gamak Valley


During wartime the men die,
the women survive.
Cockerels have their necks twisted and die,
hens sit on eggs.

Gamak Valley in Yeonsan,
north of Nonsan in South Chungcheong
is where sharp hills
approach the ridges of Mount Gyeryong.

Fifty men died there, once,
while two men
twisted their hair into topknots and revered Kim Il-Bu’s esoteric “Jeongyeok.”
The small room, the door of which is never opened
was pitch dark even at midday.

Yeonsan’s Gamak Valley.

Some forty women survived:
old widows,
young concubine widows,
young widows,
old maids.

If an unfamiliar man appears, their eyes light up.

They each offer a gourd of water with a willow leaf on it.

You must be thirsty.
You look thirsty.
You’re thirsty.

The woman from Buyeo with wide cheekbones,
hastily comes forward.

Drink this water.
I have no idea who you are or where you are from,
yet your face looks familiar.
If you are hungry
I will warm some cold rice, so you can eat before you go on.

The woman from Ganggyeong poured the water out of her gourd,

Yesterday she was making up to a male dog,
today she’s clinging to a man instead of a beast, that slut.

『가막골,from만인보. © Ko Un. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2014 by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha. All rights reserved.


전란에는 사내들이 죽고

계집들이 산다

수닭들이 모가지 비틀려 죽어가고

암닭들은 앙알앙알 알을 품는다


충남 논산 위

연산 가막골

언덕들 쭈뺏거리며

계룡산 산등성이에 다가선다


사내 50여명 죽고

두 사람

상투를 틀고 김일부의 정역을 받든다

문을 열지 않는 골방 안

한낮에도 어둑발 갔다


연산 가막골


계집들 40여명 살아

늙은 과부

젊은 소실과부




낯선 사내 오면 눈이 빛난다


서로 우물물 한 바가지 버들잎 띄워 권한다






유난히 긴 볼의 부여댁

성큼 나선다


내물 드시어유

어디서 오신 뉘신가는 모르겼어도

어쩐지 낯이 익구만이유


찬밥이라도 데워드릴 테니 잡숫고 가시어유


강경댁이 바가지 물을쏟아버렸다



어제는 누렁이 수놈헌티 아양 떨더니

오늘은 짐승 대신 사람한테 늘어붙느만그려 저년

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