Busan: City by the Sea— Part 3

Economy of Busan


Everyone’s talking about the low
volume of tourists: the Chinese are boycotting
Korea, because of THAAD.

Hotel’s, restaurants & cafes, though by no means desolate
are far from packed to the brim.
Discounts across the board.

Economies are like populations of species,
remove one & the absence is felt
elsewhere, in another’s food source

like a shadow extends & retracts
according to the position of an object,
a parallax of sorts, or superimposition of things

—i think that’s close
to the mark.


Oil tankers continue to
be manufactured in the harbor,
but the boom is gone,
the Chinese are usurping much of their business
—the air might clear
but the pitched screech
of cicada in the tree lined roads
& streets, portends something
more than the march of heat.

If such a colossus
of manufacturing falls
there will be a resounding crash
—i saw its colossal red carcass
& its multitude of limbs, the strength
of it, imposing yet somehow frail. A ship
emerged full formed from its warm
to see such a thing plummet
would break the city
in segments.


In Jagalchi Market old women, with faces
like ribbed pumice,
                                              sit on planks of worn,
sodden wood, carrier bags
stretched over it, cheap fans with ribbons
attached to swat flies;
wet concrete, the smell of salt water
trying to dry, hose pipes jet clean water
& men on mopeds part crowds,
everyone selling or delivering
the same thing every other market seller has
: huge squid the tint of bruises
that could strangle a cat, &
sun-dried mackerel strung up, wet cutlass
fish flashing like polished steel,
& crabs stuffed in tanks, with dangerous
looking pincers, difficult to eat
—all manner of creatures alien to me,
one looks like a condom full of saturated fat
& whether raw, grilled or both
                                          the difference
in quality, imperceptible to the untrained
— it all comes out the same ocean at
their backs, mast heads hovering
above the canopy of
                                         colourful umbrellas.
From a single source
they scrape a livelihood
—take note how we’re spoiling that source.


i think of the merchant from Smyrna,
no different from a merchant of Shanghai
or Singapore
                            —could he forget his troubles here
as he sunned himself on Haeundae beach
beside the sea swell couched in vapours
& the hosts of profit battling for space
                                        on tthe sea front
an armada of merchant vessels
in the dock?


In the airport
children lump
limp bodies on
their parents like
utility bills

& are told (hypocritically) not
to eat the melon seeds

while girls in lace dresses
more like peignoirs, in love
with mirrors, hide faces
under the brim of straw boleros
& long for a private place
to sleep with lovers
or friends

— tourists anxious to begin afresh
for a few distracted days.

Posted by:DPM

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

3 thoughts on “Busan: City by the Sea— Part 3

  1. I was a bit fazed, to begin with, by two cantos of what could be socio-political commentary, but ok they formed a backdrop of vérité to the rest of the poem. The squid and the cutlass fish, the moped and the crowd, the limp bodies in the airport suddenly took on (for me) the air of an overcrowded dream, and in doing so, in bringing my subconscious into my head, you expressed (or triggered my expression) of my agoraphobia. Sometimes I can’t face going out into the ‘ordinary’ world, because I know where everyone else sees ordinariness, I see inexplicable fish for sale in a crowded market-lane where I understand nothing that is going on. Then I go back to the top of the page and see the subtitle ‘Economy of Busan’, and everything seems to drop into place again. The image of a city as a colossus ready to fall conjures up, for me, the idiocy of our having stood by and having let ourselves become chained to an overriding situation of chaos that eats its own heart, and feet, and fingers, and suddenly one city doesn’t seem that much of a colossus after all.

    1. i apologize if i caused you any discomfort. i think agoraphobia is a fitting ailment for the complexity of the modern world. i am not belittling what must be a very difficult problem for you, but i think it could be something everyone suffers in various stages of intensity, i know some days i don’t want to go out or be seen.
      The city terrifies me, to behold it, to be within it is to be in an ever encroaching colossus eating up land, it scare the be-jeezzus out of me.

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