흑자 Jeju through n’ through

흑자

I am imperfect- I admire that in something especially myself
: such a dominant weakness in so many other living things
I have used to my advantage: to coddle humans
into feeding me scraps which I’ll get by on.
the tip grew into this burl like the grip of a gear stick.
I developed the use of my abdomen to even out
the missing equipoise like how a trolley at the supermarket
with one iffy wheel at the fore means people
put some muscle into steering to keep the straight & narrow.

I walk well enough, but racing into trots I veer the weight
of myself away from the direction I travel in, which makes the trot unique.
I have this peculiar manner of slinking like an accordion
a sort of stretch & move action arching the back like a nave.
already cooing like an Aboriginal with a bullroarer
calling across the bush, you know I’m near. I’ll eat more than the dog
– there’s infinity hidden in me somewhere. an infinity of tones
to my repertoire I’ve noted how seeming desperate to articulate
to speak the narrative of my day in purrs & meows

makes me appealing to people- they’re then likely to fork
out on a morsel of something. I was once called 흑자,
which is practically untranslatable -unique in character
– something like honest carefree incapable of ill will, the black stones used in 바둑
which the old men play in the shade of nettle trees they said.
they found me outside a restaurant where he got drunk;
i pawed out rolling around like 김밥 begging from guests leaving & entering.
I wanted feeding hadn’t eaten a decent meal in days.
he wanted to feed me the skin of mackerel flayed with chopsticks

that remained on the tables, simply because I tried
didn’t scarper like a pheasant when he entered but showed affection
like a monk with a singing bowl chanting for alms.
but the harridan complained 그 고양이 미우니까, 밥 주지 마세요!
i hate that cat, you shouldn’t feed it!
I rolled on my back purring & meowing- this was life or death.
I didn’t give a toss about the abuse she flung in my direction
this was a matter of life & death
– he scooped me up skinny with pleadings & took me with him… 

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Brilliant poem, you gave voice to the voiceless, and that is a very good thing to do. This poem so effectively stirs up compassion. Wonderful poem, delightful read, powerfully crafted. Is it a true story? Did you take him in? It reminds me of my aunt/cousin (from the Beagle article) who gets up a 5am to feed stray cats (they even line up but won’t let you get too close). Moreover, I love the blend of Korean and English, it creates such a vivid image.

    Also, I think its great that Joey is so busy, because to write a report, you need many books, to write a book, you need a library. If collaboration is possible in the future, you’ll probably have all the research and evidence needed.

    1. It is true. I didn’t take him in as such. I put some weight on him & gave him a second chance. He hangs around but he is independent like any street cat. His only differnce being he’ll approach people.
      I am glad you see the point of the Korean. I worry it will distance yhe reader when the idea is to draw them into the environment, into yhis place. It provokes an image of the woman being it makes her nationality evident & because people can’t read the Korean they go to visual apparatus. That is what i want to happen anyway. Glad you picked up on that.

      1. I commend you charity and compassion!

        And I think that if it is not too burdensome, and if the cat is receptive, you should take him in if the situation presents itself.

        I don’t know about Korea like you do, but I’ve read some pretty disturbing things, and you never know if a random old harridan is gonna get ideas:

        “Cat meat, on the other hand, is mostly consumed by middle-aged working class women, again for its perceived health benefits. Because cats are agile creatures, their meat and bones are thought to cure rheumatism – and working women need to ensure they remain in good health long into their sixties or seventies in order to support themselves financially. Cats are boiled (sometimes alive) in pressure-cookers and it usually takes ten cats to produce one small bottle of cat soju (goyangi soju)”

        http://theconversation.com/the-truth-about-cats-and-dogs-and-how-they-are-consumed-in-south-korea-56306

      2. i have never heard anything about this. most people seem indifferent, which leaves most animals at worse homeless. however, the cat won’t come near me after it got under my feet & i trod on its back. it was an accident, the morning before i went to England i was rushing & in the dark i didn’t see him, i should have known as he always followed me about, but i really hurt him & now won’t come anywhere near me, also, my wife won’t have animals inside. i know Korean’s eat dog, which is farmed, still horrible, but they don’t just eat any dog. it isn’t even popular, like frog’s legs in France, it is an acquired taste. i never had it. i never heard of people eating cat though, never seen cat soju. i am not sure that article is right.

      3. I really hope the article is wrong, but I doubt this is something people would advertise and gloat about. Stuff happens in secret all the time.

        Nevertheless, great poem, as it spreads, hopefully, other people in the right place at the right time would follow your example and do more to help strays.

      4. i think it is wrong in a way. i think for someone who lived here for a year they are very naive about how people actually think about it & how easy it is to find. i know of one dog restaurant in Jeju. i know they sell strays at the market, but they try to house them first. the go to is not dog meat. & i am very sure it, as this person says, boosts the economy. dogs are ten a penny here, they aren’t expensive. i can buy a dog for nothing. also farmers just give them away that is how i got my dog. do you think if they were worth 100$ the farmer would give me a dog. doubt it. this article is so naive, i could mention more, but i don’t want to waste my time with this. i don’t eat meat, but i have killed an animal, which is more than most who eat meat, they are happy for someone to kill it for them but horrified if somebody does it themselves & eats it. Koreans waste nothing, they use everything on any animal they eat. which i respect. i get a little annoyed with these naive animal rights people who make quick judgements before knowing what they are criticizing. eating dog is not a big thing in Korea, it isn’t like every week a family goes out to the dog restaurant, unlikely. my wife doesn’t eat it. i’ve never been invited to eat it in my 6 years here. so this article is very hyperbolic.
        one thing that is right is that they treat the dogs cruel, they do beat them, because apparently fear makes the meat more tender. not cool. but i think it is daft when people treat animals fair then kill them, what sort of thinking is that? & from someone who does not eat meat.

      5. Every country has its problems, I am against cultural stereotyping. That’s why I wanted to hear your on the ground observation.

        However, I feel we cannot dismiss this completely, lots of locals protest about it as well:

        http://koreananimals.org/2016/05/kaps-beginnings/

        Either way, I would perhaps the situation varies depending on which part of Korea you are in, and things are better in Jeju.

      6. i think sometimes people need to focus more on the industry that sees meat as an abundant commodity people deserve, perpetuating the mass slaughter of animals, which is having an environmental impact. nothing has budged in regard to this, in fact it gets to a point where people feel the need to eat meat with every meal, which is ridiculous. yes, the dog industry is horrible, but it isn’t the biggest problem. dogs don’t get used in macdonalds, in fast food, in packaged, frozen food etc. it is a niche market, & any of the meat sold is farmed. you can’t buy dog in the supermarket. but you can buy meat cheaper than fruit & vegetables in the supermarket, which is just shocking. changing that is where our energies need to lie.

      7. This is spot on, excellent comment!!!

        People eat all kinds of animals like there is no tomorrow. Just look at what happens in the Dairy industry. This is why I am interested in almond milk.

        Also, excerpts from my translation of Upsaka An Shi’s discourse were published last summer:

        http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/08/queries-on-abstention-from-killing-meat-eating/

        I feel as it is shorter, it would be easier to read, and if the situation comes up, you could share it to help turn the tide against industrialized meat packing.

      8. it must take you a long time to translate such long texts. i enjoy the logic that is applied to situations It is indeed cruel to personally slaughter animals. “However, if we only eat the meat that others have slaughtered, wouldn’t that make us blameless?” this is a very relevant question now & i disagree with the response, because i don’t disagree with eating meat or killing animals, however i believe, unlike Anshi, that people should be responsible for killing the animal, they should understand what it means to take a life & if they cannot do it they should abstain from meat eating. in the current climate i would settle for reduced farming & the sale of only fresh meat my professional butchers so that we know the source & none of the meat is wasted. i have quite a specific way of seeing meat. & yet, if the industry was how i’d like it to be, i still don’t think i’d eat meat, i just don’t see how we can be cool with killing something to satisfy hunger.

      9. Thanks for looking, you have already done more for animals than the greedy many. Just keep this article in mind since you never know when one of those arguments could just prove real handy in an unexpected debate.

  2. I too have noticed that meat is now cheaper than fruit and vegetables where I live myself, this is very shocking. I seen one woman at the market who upon hearing the price of some veg/fruit say: “So expensive! I’ll just go home and eat meat”. I mean, this is so unnatural. Also, have you noticed how fruit keeps getting more expensive and seems to be undergoing some sort of quasi transformation into a luxury?

    1. it is becoming the food of the privileged, which terrifies me. luckily, vegetables aren’t quite in the same position, but some fruits are extortionate. luckily, Jeju oranges are so abundant they aren’t too pricey & bananas are never that bad, so i am quite happy to subsist on just those two. apples in England are very cheap, as are pears. but strawberries anywhere are beyond reasonable. & yet they grow quite well, they grow in abundance. we had strawberry grow in our garden without much trouble, so the price doesn’t sit well with me.
      i am very simple, i can do a lot with just spring onion, courgette, aubergine, garlic & mushroom, which is pretty much my core diet.

      1. I really admire your moderation and simple living. People are so gluttonous nowadays, they can eat a whole chicken everyday like it was nothing. Thanks for standing against the tide.

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