Baduk is what you may know as Chinese checkers/chess. i have absolutely no idea how to play this game but every summer, in the afternoons, men will gather on the 평상(pyeongsang, the platform in the picture, which i decided to use the Korean name for as, bench or platform, seemed like an awkward name for something which isn’t a bench or platform, but is in fact a 평상) beneath the 팽나무 (pengnamu), which is called a Nettle tree in the West or sometimes Hackberry, but i like the plosive peng.
This is a new poem on an eternal recurrence.
nothing for it
either it’s too humid to work
else they’ve turned infirm with age
& so the hexagon of men
play baduk in the 팽 tree’s tenebrous thud.
each move a hostility, calculated
at life’s dilemmas, the velveteen disks packed
with questions never parting lips sweaty as slugs
nor booting about their throats soaked
in the chug of alcohol & tobacco, turning
cheeks rubicund & paunches into kimchi urns
—they shuttle short, incisive clauses to each other
like cucumbers snapped in 2.
—none the wiser nor close to caesura,
they turn dilemmas over like cinnamon sweets
in their mouth, you can tell by how they move the pieces
willy-nilly, but with hands slow as a heron.
what will you do
with all those soju bottles lads?
each, whether empty or full
an abstruse extension or answer
to the grueling existential mess
scrumming the heart
—depending which side
of the 평상 they sit.