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  • Jeolla Lass
  • Yi Yong-ak
    Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé (bio)

Jeolla Lass

You grew up loving colorful clamshells, your eyes blue as the sea, your face lightly tanned, little lass. And I am a boy from Hamgyeong who crossed the cold iron bridge with freezing feet.

The sounds of howling wind and tigers are less frightening now. Beneath this dim lamp I try to drink away the sorrows crowding in like a fog, as I expect grim news will suddenly arrive, in this Manchurian tavern where neither the walls nor the neighbors can be trusted.

I have come harboring curses. I have come through fierce blizzards, little lass; now as I wander through the shady woodland lanes in your breast, pour the wine gently, pour it slowly to the brim, and in it soak softly, please, your story of destitution.

Did you say you crossed the Tuman River three months ago? Was every hill you climbed, mile after mile, aflame with scarlet leaves? Lonely and sorrowful, did you hide your face in your skirts? Did you weep like a crane for two days and nights as the train flew by, as if among clouds, and were the windows misted over?

As if intoxicated by the gentle breaking of waves, your smile sometimes freezes, still showing your dimples, [End Page 157]

little lass, Jeolla lass, about to weep, about to weep, never weeping; with a few words in your dialect, let me summon up an unseasonable spring. Returning you for a moment to your homeland, when your pigtails, tied with soiled pink ribbons, flapped in the wind.

As soon as there is light enough on the icy road, I shall set off quickly across the snowy plains, I shall vanish without so much as a song. I shall vanish without a trace. [End Page 158]

Brother Anthony of Taizé

Brother Anthony of Taizé has published more than thirty volumes of translations of Korean poetry. Recently, he published ten volumes of work by Ko Un, along with volumes by Lee Si-Young and Kim Soo-bok. Born in Cornwall in 1942, he has lived in Korea since 1980 and was naturalized as a Korean citizen in 1994. Brother Anthony has received the Republic of Korea Literary Award (Translation), the Daesan Award for Translation, the Korea PEN Translation Prize, and the Ok-gwan (Jade Crown) Order of Merit for Culture from the Korean government. He is also emeritus professor of English at Sogang University and Chair of the International Creative Writing Center at Dankook University.



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