Saturday, 10 January 2015

Cholla lass - Yi Yong-ak

You grew up kissing soft clams with colourful shells,
your eyes are blue as the sea, your face lightly tanned,
little lass.
And I am a lad from Hamkyong who crossed the iron bridge
with freezing feet.
The sound of the wind and of tigers howling are not so fearful now.
Beneath this feeble lamp I long to drink down the cares crowding in like fog,
but I feel as though some appalling news will come rushing in,
in this Manchurian tavern where I cannot trust thick walls or neighbors.
I have come harboring all kinds of curse.
I have come through fierce blizzards.
Little lass,
as I wander down the shady woodland lanes that lie in your breast,
pour wine, pour to the brim daintily
and steep it softly in your story of destitution, please.
You crossed the Tuman River three months ago, you say?
Surely every hill you crossed, mile after mile after mile was aflame with scarlet leaves then?
Still, you must have hidden your face in your skirt, lonely and sorrowful?
You must have wept like a crane for two days and nights
as the train went hurrying as if in the clouds, the windows must have misted over?
Seemingly intoxicated by the gentle breaking of waves,
you sometimes smile a frozen smile, silently showing dimples,
little lass,
about to weep, about to weep, never weeping Cholla lass,
let me summon out-of-season spring with a few words in your dialect.
Go back for just a moment to your homeland,your pink pigtail-ribbon with its dirty finger marks flapping in the wind.
As soon as the icy road grows light
I shall be setting briskly off across the snow-swept plains
I shall vanish without so much as a song.
I shall vanish without a trace.

Yi Yong-ak (20th century) North Korea
Translated by Brother Anthony

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