“Marsh” by Lee Kyeong-Rim


Lee Kyeong-Rim

60,000 years before my mother gives birth to me,
35,000 years before I give birth to my daughter,
my daughter’s womb holds an 8,000 year-old baby
and my daughter misses my baby in her womb.
Each month she goes to the obstetrician for an ultrasound.
As a physician nearing 50,000
slowly guides the tip of a machine over my daughter’s belly, round like a gourd,
my daughter’s daughter in my daughter’s womb
stretches out her arms and quickly makes a face.
She must be entering a marsh.
I had thought a woman’s womb turned into marsh
only after first becoming flesh and blood.
That a marsh could exist in that round gourd….
I only just realized that becoming a complete person
means experiencing a thousand years in that marsh.

‘Mommy, did I get my stubby nose from you? Do I look like you?’

My daughter is still not even 30,000 years old,
so she doesn’t know I means self. She doesn’t know
that the 80,000 year-old woman carrying her is my mother.

‘She still has so little sense,’
says the old woman with a laugh
who kept track of her own age till 80,000, until she couldn’t remember.


우리 엄마가 나를 낳은 건 육만년 전 내가
우리 딸을 낳은 건 삼만 오천년 전 우리 딸은
지금 제 뱃 속에다 팔천년 째 아기를 키우고 있네
우리 딸은 뱃속에 있는 제 아기가 보고 싶어
매달 산부인과로 초음파를 하러 가네
오만 살 쯤 먹은 의사가 둥그런 박 같은 내 딸의 배 위에
조갑지만 한 기계를 대고 슬슬 굴리면
내 딸의 뱃속에 있는 내 딸의 딸이
팔을 쑥 내밀었다 얼굴을 쑥 내밀었다 황급히
무슨 늪 같은 것 속으로 들어가네.
나는 사람의 뱃속이 늪인 줄 육만 살이 되어서야 알았네.
늪이 저렇게 둥그런 바가지 속이라는 것도,
온전히 사람이 되려면 사람의 늪 속에서
만년을 견뎌야 한다는 것도 처음 알았네.

‘엄마, 코가 뭉툭 한 게 엄마 닮았나? 나 닮았나?’

내 딸은 아직 삼만 오천 살 밖에 되지 않았으므로
내가 자기라는 걸 모르네 지금 뱃속에 팔천년 째
키우고 있는 것이 제 엄마라는 것도 모르네

‘아직 철이 덜 든 게야’
팔만 살 까지 세다가 나이를 까먹었다는 노파가
웃는 듯 우는 듯 말했네



Lee Kyeong-Rim (1949—) was born in Mungyeong in Gyeongsang-do (North Gyeongsang Province). Her debut work was “In the Land of Insults” (굴욕의 땅에서) was published in 1989. Since then she has published collections of poetry and written novels.

“Marsh” (늪) originally appeared in the autumn 2006 issue of Litopia.