i have quite a few stories in this vein that i have heard either from the horses mouth [Daesa-nim] or those that know the horse. i am trying to recollect them for poems. this is just one of those stories that really stands out for me.
for those who want to call bull crap on these stories you are welcome to, i nowhere state my position on the matter & nor do i think it the poet’s job to take a side— here, i am merely the impartial receptacle of such stories, which i have experienced— i reserve my judgement for my self or face to face conversations perhaps over beverages. but i don’t think i’ll have this problem with the wonderful bloggers of WordPress.

i have used rhyme in this poem, in a quite peculiar way, much of it remains concealed behind a subtle device: that of relationship— so that multiple words (at least as i see it) have something relational somewhere in the sounds of the word, so that a di or trisyllabic word such a meditation can have words with d, t or n sounds rhyming with it— & that may carry over to two or more other words, this makes for a subtle music: sort of like how Brian Wilson could tandem keys at once to create a solid melody, like he does in Wouldn’t it be Nice. i really take my cue from reading Simon Armitage’s Tyrannosaurus Rex vs The Corduroy Kid where he doesn’t exactly use this technique but he does find subtlety more to his liking, though he does use exact rhyme at times. read him, he’s good, very good.


unconventional birth of a tungso flute

i’m sure it probably began with one of those
4-D visions he’s known to get in the mirrored cube of his head
—of Dangun inspiring morale once the long exodus
from the Pamir range was concluded at Baekdusan
—his knackered caravan of followers in need
of their spirits roused— so Dangun took out his
tungso flute & blew their tired to smithereens.

without the foil wrapped idiosyncrasy of internet
to teach him how to carve a tungso flute
Daesa-nim set out for Jiri Mt in S.Jeolla province
to a bamboo forest & settled into meditation
—inquired to the forest’s collect-call-consciousness
which one of you wouldn’t mind being hacked
down— the canopy hushed… one stocky & brave agreed.

he became the torn up bamboo’s devoted pupil
— interviewed it, asking what steps need he take
to transmigrate the uprooted wood into an immortal
instrument— it whispered lessons plainly in his ear
: how to— whittle down, sand, dimension, the adequate
fahrenheit & method to scorch finger
holes that starve oxygen enough to cause a note

— right measure of varnish to cling film the wood
how to carve the lip plate to resurrect a life
of melody the weather cradles in the wet & wind.
the job done, tungso like an old man’s cane
he had to learn deliverance of notes with bated breath
—that too the tungso helped him with: seared the scores
direct into the hind of thought to plot their own path

to cracks of light like vines
in a shamans wooden shrine.


tungso (퉁소): a type of bamboo flute played horizontally rather than vertically. it is a more advanced type of flute— the danso 단소 being a more rudimentary form, like the recorder to the clarinet say. i can play danso, which says it all really.

Dangun (단군 할아버지): the mythical founder of Korea. the myth says he came from heaven & was placed on Baekdu Mt (백두산) by the father of heaven. Daesa-nim’s version is that Dangun wasn’t a mythic character but an actual man who led an exodus from the Pamir Mountains (from which civilization according to Daesa-nim sprouted) to Korea, which of course was not Korea, or rather Go-Guryeo (고구려). i heard that until the Americans arrived, Korea was called Goryeo (고려) still, but owing to American malapropism, due to mispronunciation, it became Korea. never confirmed this though, just heard it from Korean people, which is perhaps confirmation enough.

Jiri Mt (지리산): the third highest mountain in Korea. it is actually a range of mountains spanning quite a space. i never went there unfortunately, but hope to remedy this. the reason i never went is due to the time needed to really see the place, you need a full weekend, which means trying to book one of the guesthouses in the range, which fill up quickly on weekends.

S. Jeolla (전라) is a southern province of Korea, stretching to the south coast. it is a rural area know for farming, which also makes it famous for good food & drink.

Posted by:DPM

DPM is an idea-logue (sic) and object-oriented speculative realist, attempting to be response-able in an irresponse-able society.

7 thoughts on “unconventional birth of a tungso flute

  1. This is so cool. A message from a more introverted time in consciousness. The photo helps give the story a sense of realism—not that it lacked whatsoever from the poem—you can just go “that’s him, that happened to him, he did that.”

  2. Goryeo. Maybe why we never here them call it “Korea”, or Beijing “Peking”, Mumbai “Bombay”. We westerners once thought we owned the world. Thanks for the background. It helps the poem tell the story.

    1. actually Koreans call themselves Daehan mingook 대한민국, which means Great People. Goryeo was not the name of Korea unified, it was one of the Three Kingdoms, the other two being Silla 신라 & Baekjae 백재. another name for the Korean people i heard from Daesa-nim (the man who made the flute) is Baedal 배달, which in modern usage (completely unrelated to this) is the word for a delivery boy. i was told never to make a joke about this, as those who know this word as an appellation for the Korean people find it very insulting.

      1. Interesting. I hear them pronounce their language as ‘Han Guk’, so I wondered what they call their country. I only know what I learn from the Hallyu dramas. My wife and I watch them as our only TV entertainment. She is Asian-American but doesn’t have many Asian friends, so to find a world of people who act and think like her is refreshing.

      2. I missed Hanguk out. That is the most common. Hanguk mal is language & hanguk saram is Korean person. My wife is Korean & watches drama a lot. i don’t watch it as there is a lot of shouying & i can’t follow.

      3. The newer crop of actors have grown past the shouting. We like the romantic comedies. They’re not as intense and are actually cute. It helps that we stream it on the internet with English captions and we pick what we want to watch.

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