“The Dead Do Age” by Song Jae-Hak

Song Jae-Hak

Song Jae-Hak (image source)

Each year my mother goes to a photo studio.
It’s there where my father ages,
where the lines of my mother’s forehead soften
and in an instant, for a moment, they become my father’s wrinkles.
She softly puts in place the few hairs on his head,
easily turning them deep and dark as charcoal.
It’s always there, with my father dressed in a rumpled, broad-collared suit,
that my mother and father age.
Haha, from the space between the upper lip and nose they look like half-siblings —
full siblings, even.
My mother’s worry was always how she, with her grandmother’s face,
would ever find a young husband.
Bbut with that space between nose and lip, after forty-some odd years,
whether through sentimentality
or having given in to wear
and worry,
she now has her kin among
people who resemble a family
and ask again if she’s excited
and more people who look like a family who seem to follow after.


울 어머니 매년 사진관에 다녀오신다
그곳에서 아버지 늙어가시니
어머니 미간의 지층을 뜯어내면
지척지간 아버지 주름이다
굵은 연필이라면 머리카락 몇 올 아버지 살쩍에 옮겨
늙은 목탄풍으로 바꾸는 게 어렵지 않다지
그때마다 깃 넓은 신사복은 찡그리면서
아버지, 어머니 그림자처럼 늙으신다
하, 두 분은 인중 닮은 이복남매 같기도 하고
오누이 같기도 하고
어머니의 고민은 할미의 얼굴로
어떻게 젊은 남편을 만나느냐는 것이지만
하, 이별의 눈과 입도 한 사십 년쯤 되면
라고 되묻는 식솔들이 생기나 보다
집이 생긴 별의 식솔들도 따라오나 보다


“The Dead do Age” ( 죽은 사람도 늙어간다) originally appeared in Daum – 70 Representative Korean Poets.