Filling in the blanks— a poem about Kim Yeong Gap (김영갑) the coda

hope something of the spirit of the man you absorbed from these lines that tried to bring him back from the dead

 

his dream

count the tallest trees with only Latin
& Korean names, the oreums feminine contours
involuntarily on fingers & toes
then follow the pheasant track stars through Halla’s forests
into dreams stacked like scoria stupas
& Jeju shaped like a woman sat atop
ready to be fondled & fucked in the gallery after hours
a gallery filled with masterpieces by an old man
—she hides any sickness sown
in the inner lining of her simple dress
sweeps it off with brushstroke fingertips
from along the aquiline face blushed
& dumbstruck with wet clay soft as sobs

—he never woke up.

& for now

i’m glad you died so spared from witnessing
the whittling of the pure unblemished hills you traipsed
around with camera mounted on its tripod slung over your shoulder
no border walls or structures interfering with your pace.

Jeju became much changed now populated with resorts the rich
Chinese business men build with austere gloom
the roads slick as acryl humming with white hire cars
ferrying air conditioned tourists poking telephones

out the window to capture proof they weren’t at work or home
on their merry way to family theme parks, a neon ugly fright
—or hassle Haenyo whose foraging waters became too polluted to fish
& makes them dizzy sick & poorer— but it’s the tourists’ right, right?

—i don’t know who i’m talking to.

clay figures

they’re you aren’t they, as the Lou Gehrig’s
advanced the slow collapse of neurons
all muscles withered to the texture of month old persimmon
until you atrophied into a twitching lump of flesh
a uniform heaviness pummeled by gravity
quietly dismantling under your own mass?

the tourists think them cute
something like the funny cartoon
monsters their children watch on TV
but i’ve learned with sense the truth
—your moods in clay tumescence
masks for the idea of you

: the meditator holy man flummoxed skeptic
outlier philosophically without a clue that anything means
patient observer expert in waiting sick man mind
at odds with a degenerating body worn like an old coat full of shells & rocks.

kneaded the atrophy out the tips
of finger & thumb, with kinetic shift
of palms & foresight
rid the body of rotting energy
transmigrated to a clay figure
that took the kiln blast
suffered & appeared from the flames
with a face then put in the weather
to heal up

— it didn’t work
but with the very least you tried
.
the end & the beginning

let this poem not end in dirt
where all should end, but where all
began— in front of the butchering sea
its flensed buttons of foam
dense as fingernails flung out the hand
of wind to spatter my embarrassed cheek
just the right distance from
death & creation

10 Comments Add yours

  1. pseudonymous says:

    You definitely did, love how the title is a play on his name and the poetry. I feel like I’ve maybe seen these figures somewhere before…fascinating he was able to transmute the disease. You can almost feel it after reading your words and seeing the photos. Truly wonderful tribute to the man and his work.

    1. i was concerned the punning of his name may come off as cheesy, so i am pleased that isn’t how you feel about it. Whether the figures were his transmutation of Lou Gerhig’s is pure speculation on my part i have no proof. The whole poem is founded on sense. On studying the work to say something of the man. I may be completely in error but i accept that.

      1. pseudonymous says:

        Your work is the antithesis of cheesy the thought wasn’t even a distant ship in my perception. Thanks for clarifying the detail—hard to imagine that’s not what it was—but there we are imagining—and to some degree even the keenest of minds will forever be false in their masterful accuracy. Once again I say, though differently this time, where have you been this whole time I’ve been blogging?

      2. I am thrilled. While you’ve been blogging i was probably working hard trying to be a better writer, i am starting to feel more confident these day that i may just have done something right. i spent ten years just writing rubbish to learn. only in the last 2 years have i started to write anything approaching original or worthwhile. But comments like yours give me the impetus to write more.
        Lou Gerhig’s is an atrophying of the muscles, i imagine it must make you feel amorphous & heavy, the clay figures look like the feel of the disease to me.

      3. pseudonymous says:

        That is the plight of being an artist you will always be critical but the more times you hear it reaffirmed the more true it will feel. Yes I can tell just from reading that you study and put a lot of technical effort into your work—something I think I did pick up on before I read it or was mentioned—it definitely shows and as a writer thats one of my favorite qualities in reading material—even if I don’t fully understand the devices used themselves they are there and palpable.

      4. The initial lines must appear but then they need to be crafted. I always pricked my ears when i heard about Dylan Thomas spending hours labouring a line or deliberating a single word or Roethke breaking into joyful tears that form & function met.
        I am glad you see my purpose. That you feel the technique rather than know it so it can be enjoyed by all rather than just those who know. If it were not like this I’d be back to the draeing board, which is never problematic.

  2. This is a beautifully told story.

    1. i am pleased it has an affect Finnegan.

      1. Aye, it does. I feel as if someone, somewhere far away, has turned a spadeful of earth in the place that one day will serve as my grave.

      2. far away in time or space? either way that’s a pretty profound analogy.

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