My Brother and the Brazier

Dearest brother, the charcoal brazier with the turtle-shell pattern, the one you so cherished, cracked yesterday.
That one that Yongnam — our pioneer , the little flag-bearer, as you used to call him — had bought and brought home, his young body having steeped in the venom of tobacco through all his hours of sunshine on earth; that turtle-shell patterned brazier broke.

So now the fire tongs hang lonely on the wall, lonely as poor Yongnam and I, siblings who lost our beloved brother.

Brother . . .
Me, I know so well —
on that evening when you were taken to be locked up, leaving two of us
younger siblings, why you were smoking the three rolled cigarettes one after another.
I know very well, brother.
When thoughtlessly I used to say to you, weary at dinner after returning from the factory, that you smelled of newsprint,
you'd reply, an exhausted smile on your pale face, . . .
Don't you smell like silkworm droppings? Greatest and bravest brother, our brother, I know
why, that evening, you silently filled the room with tobacco smoke;
the mind of our brave brother, I understood very well.

In the single plume of smoke rising to the ceiling, I saw clearly,
stamped in your iron-tough heart, the great determination and sacred resolution.
Even before I finished mending one of Yongnam's socks,
you had gone, along with the clanging, beating on the door sill,
the violent sounds of boots trampling down the wooden floor.

Even then, our greatest brother, didn't you leave with our worries
wreathed in clouds of smoke?
Brother — so, Yongnam and I;
as the stories of you and your bravest and greatest friends turned the world upside-down,
I had to leave the reel machine. Now I break my fingernails making the envelopes,
one hundred for a penny.
Yongnam, too, was fired from the tobacco-stinking pit and licks the flaps of the envelopes.
Now he is snoring under patched rags that look like the shape of a world map.

But, brother . . . don't you worry.
I am a girl who shares the same blood with you, this country's gallant young man;
And Yongnam is your younger brother who brought home the iron-hard
turtle-patterned brazier, the one you used to praise all along.
Oh, and brother, a little while ago, the rest of your young friends came by.
They brought tearful tidings of you, their comrade, our brother.
They were lovable brave young men.
They were the greatest young men in the world.

Though the brazier is broken, don't the fire tongs remain like flag poles?
Brother, you left, but sweet pioneer , Yongnam is here
and my breasts, a warm-hearted sister's bosom for all young pioneers are still warm.

And, brother . . .
Would it be I alone who lost her brother or Yongnam who sent away his iron-willed brother?
We are neither sad nor lonely.
There are your countless noble friends, and our precious friends,
numerous boys and girls who lost their older brothers.
So the next battle will be fought by the hands of our friends, who now must harbor their grudges and resentment.

Brother, if I work all night and make twenty-thousand envelopes,
in three days, new padded clothes will be put on your shivering body.

Your sister and brother in the outside world spend day after day like this,
in good health, in the battle field.
Yongnam sleeps on. It has grown late.
— Your sister.
Author of original: 
Im Hwa
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