Photographs were not the only product of my Busan trip, naturally, a poem emerged, a long poem.
Busan: City by the Sea— part 1
Just Another Tourist
A farmer’s profiled face, the ideal line,
tilted back 40 degrees
watching the sky
bedded in geraniums, cosmos & violets;
the face made of white gauze bandaged round a wire frame
& decorated with green string— it looks like
a giant 3-D sketch, done with a pea-green biro.
Mountains veer to the horizon
like Venn diagrams, the granite circumference
& spine of Busan;
tunnels gimleted through them,
causing a lament of congestion
buzzing like a game show,
the epileptic lights flash, indicative of where were heading next..
Pylons goosestep arêtes softened with pine, cast
to subterranean depths
under highways, jammed
with buses & trucks, spent adrenaline
MAN: CONSISTENTLY EFFICIENT.
There are policemen smiling
& a salesman selling mosquito
paraphernalia, precautionary measures
& antidotes: zappers, shaped like tennis rackets,
wall plugs, lotions, roll-ons
he chain smokes the day short
—people have only pocket change
Suddenly the bus banks up
& the city escalates into rich towers, glassy,
squamous, hoarding wealth, the city
mirrored in celled facades.
i cannot smell the ocean
yet, but see the estuary colonnaded with oriental willow
suffering under a burden of greyish, yellow smog
like a dog struggling in Malbok heat.
Later my wife will tell me
this is the smell of Singapore.
Two Sides to Every Coin
The serotonin here is through the roof,
there must be alien minerals in the water,
no known vitamins in the fruit & veg,
the air less astringent due to lower anxiety,
maybe the oemuk or kimchi is exceptional.
i don’t see the kinds of faces that say
I might as well masturbate in the shower.
There are lonely business men
speaking 2nd languages casually in
unseasonable clothes, eating
flakey croissants & vanilla crowns
with espressos & Korean melon
at the buffets of expensive hotels.
There are taxi drivers
with smoker’s coughs, tracheas
like frowsty walls, unimpressed
with the questions
they have all the answers for.
There are immoderate values
at arm’s length
& homes in clouds.
There are boys
in linen shirts standing in empty spaces
with a distance, bundled glass;
their comfort palpable,
their girlfriend’s hair
blending with the contours
of massive shadows.
The People on the Hill & by the Sea
Two epochs facing off
against each other, one humbled
֫by time, cautious of it
—bitten off stairways & roof top
2 by 4 veggie patches of chili & tomato;
Quasimodo homes & businesses
in pastel jackets, scratching
their heads instead of the sky,
home to old artisans
with coarsened hands, trying
to massage a life out of old
designs & new community.
& driven to the sea
the air-headed hyper-developed,
behind blacked-out windows
& 0-60 mph in 6 secs precision engineering
more like a prosthetic limb than convenience;
they’ve a tough stance on time,
jobs in finance or business,
groomed pets on leashes,
polished teeth & dry cleaned clothes
— how happy they must be;
they should test sadness
now & again,
money can buy both.
& yet they live
in the shadow
of the people on the hill.
In the Irish pub
of the Westin Joseon Hotel
the book shelf contains
a Danish Dictionary, an
Introduction to Alzheimer’s
& a biography
of Marilyn Monroe.