what i wouldn’t give for a Sunday

i wrote this a few months back in a minor mood, missing home, sitting on the roof terrace, on a Sunday, looking at the sea & thinking how odd that the same day in a different location can conjure such opposing feelings.

 

what i wouldn’t give for a Sunday

it’s not as if it isn’t Sunday
nor that the landscape behaves otherwise,
nothing the matter with the sky split by 한라봉 cloud,
the placid sea dotted with fishing boats;
it just that they don’t quite cut the mustard.
& yes the birds tease worms, dogs sneeze,
the lilac, sage, the bottle brush & Washingtonia robusta,

the edible weeds at the marge of the road,
no part have played & yet behave like root & cause.
& there is an island as still as a tortoise
that makes no effort on its part to budge.
the list could be as heavy as eye lids
before toast & marmalade & hot milky tea,
but it will never express as accurate as feel

that Sunday just doesn’t come to Jeju
—must be an English thing.

not likely that i miss the peal of church bells
—the shops too here are all shut up. no one about,
they’re stirring effervescent saucepans of 해장국 or 찌깨,
drinking 소주 or 막걸리, barbecuing 흑돼지
on open fires & nattering loudly over one another
about Park Geun-hye’s misbehavior.
there are no pubs stocked with drinkers stood at the bar,

the heavy stench of beer soaked wood
hung in the air like an old coat on a peg.
a poet may tell lies all day, arrange lines just right
to civilize a lie & deliver missing Sunday like
a newspaper through a letterbox;
they can make even bullshit read beautiful.
& even though i rubbed the adolescent sprigs

of rosemary from the garden all round my fingers
i cannot budge this longing for Sunday
—the smell of lamb roast wafting from the kitchen
as lines of low, wintry sunlight break
into the living room like a 천상병 poem.
that incomparable stillness i remember so much
in a feel no matter how distant time becomes;

but Sunday just doesn’t come to Jeju
—must be an English thing.

glossary:

한라봉= hallabong, a special orange that grows in Jeju
해장국= haejangguk, a soup for hangovers, eaten at lunch
찌깨= chiggae, a Korean stew usually made with either kimchi or bean paste, vegetables & tofu
소주= soju, a popular un-distilled liquor
막걸리= makgeolli, a delicious rice wine
흑돼지= heukdwaeji, black big, native to Jeju, very popular
천상병= Cheon Sang-byeong, a Korean poet who wrote poems about the Sabbath & homesickness (Cheon means heaven)

19 Comments Add yours

  1. pseudonymous says:

    I always feel like I suck at describing other peoples’ poetry, but—I found it vivid and clever, the photo very fitting. I had to look up Jeju… looks like a really unique little place, and your poem illustrates that even in a place like that that nostalgia for once was home can always come knocking—or that feeling of alienation no matter where you are. I felt like I was there…I had to look at what day it was for some reason.

    1. for someone who ‘sucks at describing’ you didn’t do such a bad job here. Jeju is a pretty unique place & i am glad my poem has gone some way to illustrating that.
      i have lived in Korea for 6 years & a bit, but homesickness always worms its way when i least expect it. you can have everything, & you return your thoughts to home & even what you hate about it becomes some you long for, even when you are gazing out at a sparkling ocean.

      1. pseudonymous says:

        Hah, wow, the grass is truly always greener

  2. Really beautiful haibun. Well done!!

    1. Thanks Daniel. i am working at getting some haibun published in the contemporary haibun online, got my fingers crossed & speaking with the editor about some alterations for the next issue.

      1. You are really really REALLY good at it… the voice of a unique side of Jeju… the settled poet both outside and inside the island: the “indiginous alien” reporting on exitence.

        You have found a niche on Jeju and no matter how many or few readers you attract, you have really achieved an amazing position; you are really “saying something” the hallmark of real artistry the old jazz guys demanded of each other and others.

      2. Means a lot for you to say so. i spent such a long time working to write something meaningful so i am glad you see that meaningfulness.

      3. It must feel good to know you have found an original voice in words, doing something no one else has done/could do… like Jeju herself psychically called you there to be her English scribe… to make of your heart her own consulate! 천재… 🙂

      4. More like relief actually. Relief that i stumbled on the right approach to a subject on the subject itself & that the subject has so much potential it’ll be keeping me busy for sometime. & that i have found some intelligent & sensitive readers to enjoy my work is the icing on the cake.

      5. I can’t vouch for my own intelligence or sensitivity… but I can assure you that I can indeed read!

      6. i think your achievements speak volumes on that Daniel.

  3. pseudonymous says:

    And I forgot to mention, the glossary was awesome, I liked the mix of Korean words (aesthetics, mystery, culture) but then to actually understand afterwards, you can go back—it gives you either an accurate first reading, or a fill-in-the-blanks and go back for version 2—the revelation

    1. the editor at the High Windows journal told me that the Korean could be a muddle for some, i agree; the idea is to launch the reader into the exotic, to give them some context to bring them into the culture, so for submission i have been romanizing the Korean, but when i publish them here i use the Korean & annex a glossary, & the effect you explain commences. glad you took note & it worked for you. i never really know what will work, i just write & then hope.

  4. Mary Tang says:

    It’s an English thing and a Korean thing at the same time and how well they went together though they are so far apart. I like seeing the script and then reading the glossary. I guess you meant ‘pig’ though I wanted it to be ‘fig’ when you wrote ‘black big’ 🙂

    1. The poem tries to capture the sense of Sunday. When I’m in England there is a feeling that it is Sunday. You could go blindfold & be kept imprisoned with no knowledge of time & I’m sure you’d feel it in the air of your confines. Whereas for me Korea doesn’t have Sunday. Stuff happens, which makes all the difference.
      It is certainly meant to be pig, i never noticed, thank you. They BBQ it i might add. The neck is the best part. The sirloin ain’t bad either.

      1. Mary Tang says:

        The juxtaposition of the here and there and now and then really works for this poem.

      2. I used to believe in the possibility of a harmonious man & it isn’t impossible but i realize the immense difficult & even naivety of it after so long living away from England.

      3. Mary Tang says:

        I’ve lived 50 years away from ‘home’ and I will always be homesick because the home that I knew does not exist anymore.

      4. That is upsetting. I’d like to say home is a state of mind. But that’s just not how it feels. It is a physical thing. I feel for you Mary.

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