Baduk (바둑)

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.

평상

 

Baduk 바둑

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.

17 Comments Add yours

    1. Decking yes, but it has a place in Korean society unlike decking’s general use in Western society. Pyeongsang can be found regularly under big trees as a respite from the hard sun & due to many old people still living in poorly air conditioned housing, or not having enough money to pay bills, so sitting outside on the Pyeongsang in the shade is ample enough restive from this. i think the use of the Korean, at least, even if people don’t know about the use of pyeongsang in Korean society, it at least teaches my readers a little something. i try to avoid too much Korean in these poems, but sometimes it just feels necessary.

      1. What a great idea. I’d love a pyeongsang around one of our trees here….in the meantime, we settle for just sitting on the ground. Leaving the Korean in there is great- I love the glimpse of language and culture. How is the hard work going?

      2. i am sure they are simple enough to make, check the internet.
        People are split on the use of Korean, as long as the explanation is there it works, but sending poems to publishers they tend to turn them down as the Korean ruptures the flow for them, i have explained a small glossary but, no.
        Hard work is fine, i can cope with it, so long as the weather behaves. If the weather is bad the dog won’t come out so i have no company as i ferry blankets around or call to her from the open doors— good weather & good dog make working fine.

      3. Put that on the list of all the things I plan to learn from the internet 😂

        I can see the perspective of publishers, but works well on your blog in my opinion.

      4. i see there concern too, & most times a viable translation is there, but for pyeongsang i don’t think there is so maybe this one won’t be sent to journals, maybe i’ll tag a brief explanation for my use of Korean in this instance & fold my hands & pray.

  1. angela1313 says:

    Where I lived in town there were no trees, so no pyeongsang. I seem to remember seeing one or two in small hamlets while out hiking but I never knew this tradition, even though I did learn to play baduk. The poem is wonderful, conjures up those humid days when you didn’t want to move even to fan yourself.

    1. i think it is more a country thing. When i lived in Jeolla-do i saw men play baduk under trees but i i don’t know if baduk under trees is a tradition, however, at the bottom of my village where i took this picture, regularly throughout summer i’ll see them playing & swigging soju. So it is a sort of tradition to me.
      Those humid days kill me i am much slower than any heron, even with a busted wing.

  2. kvennarad says:

    ‘Baduk’ seems almost onomatopoeic.

    1. It may well be. Perhaps the sound of the “velveteen disks” as they plunk on the wood board. I’ll look into it.

      1. kvennarad says:

        That was the thought I had.

  3. Li says:

    This is my game! We call it Wei Qi in China (literally “surround game”) and it’s known as Go (the Japanese term) in the west. The rules are exceedingly simple (even more so than chess I think) but it’s a complicated battle of the mind.

    1. The Koreans sometimes call it Go. i never learned simply because i have no one to teach or play with. My wife often talks about learning, so maybe one day when we have time we’ll learn.

      1. Li says:

        Ah, there are online servers you can join to play against people, which is quite a good way to start if there’re no one around. I used to play on KGS when I had the time, which is nicely designed and very beginner friendly.

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