“Microwave Rice” by Lee Byeong-Ryul

Lee Byeong-Ryul

Lee Byeong-Ryul (image source)

There was a time when I used to buy microwave rice.
A time when there was no nowhere to put it.
I placed it in pockets, bags,
and hugged it to my chest.
But it always grew cold.

Eating it in secret, it became too loose.
But when it made splendid clumps, what I ate became my strength.
There is something your hands reach out to in hunger:
And when there is nowhere else to put it, you fill a bag up with it.
And although it’s filled with love, it’s like carrying your worries.

If you press down on it, it bursts open.
If you don’t empty it, it’s an unfortunate situation
with a new taste.
The palm that squeezes the
upside down bag for the grains at the bottom,
is as blank and expressionless as those fingers which strip away love
without knowing where it goes.
Even through a winter storm,
whether the bag’s volume should be further emptied or filled,
this hungering demand for love will fill it till the very end.
When the wind finally snatches away the bag,
you could say love has been taken with it.
Who is that wind
who carried off the bag
as if it were filled with rice?


봉지밥을 싸던 시절이 있었지요
담을 데가 없던 시절이지요
주머니에도 가방에도 넣고
가슴팍에도 품었지만
어떻게든 식는 밥이었지요

남몰래 먹느라 까실했으나
잘 뭉쳐 당당히 먹으면 힘도 되는 밥이었지요
고파서 손이 가는 것이 있지요
담을 데가 없어 봉지에 담지요
담아도 종일 불안을 들고 다니는 것 같지요
눌리면 터지고
비우지 않으면 시금시금 변해버리는
이래저래 안쓰러운 형편이지요
밥풀을 떼어먹느라 뒤집은 봉지
그 안쪽을 받치고 있는 손바닥은
사랑을 다 발라낸 뼈처럼
도무지 알 길 없다는 표정이지요
더 비우거나 채워야 할 부피룰
폭설이 닥치더라도 고프게 받으라는 이 요구를
마지막까지 봉지는 담고 있는지요
바람이 봉지를 채 간다고
사랑 하나 치웠다 할 수 있는지요
밥을 채운 듯 부풀어
봉지를 들고 가는
저 바람은 누군지요


“Microwave Rice” (봉지밥) originally appeared in  Daum – 70 Representative Korean Poets.