This is just to have the whole poem in one place for any future visitors who pass by & rather than ruffle through separate posts, you get the idea. i do recommend a second read though, never know what you might have missed 1st time round. Cheers for reading by the way.
Busan: City by the Sea
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.
Shinsaegae (The New World) Department Store
There is enough here for everyone to have something unique,
something all their own, which really means
that everyone has the same, just as the same electricity,
the same gas, the same fossils, cut the tenebrous stem
of the night, the very root of it we feared
& prayed to fail ahead of us a few hours, while
we slept our talents honed
our day revised.
We are encouraged to
purchase our style, our individuality,
it is the paradigm keeping the head of the world
we know above water & i sometimes wonder
if it is such a mistake to have a system in place
which manages stability, a sedative
calming the ape of us, keeping us in check,
but i cannot neglect that it
shuts out the shame
of whole populations suffering
for the unbridled luxuries of a minority.
Enough people know this, but
seeing as truth is now a matter
of a defensive position, with a weak source;
a matter of pride & personality, of idealism
—nothing changes now
everyone is right even if
it’s only in their opinion.
That’s why it’s always easier
to get in, than it is to get out.
The revolving doors,
remind me to look back on time’s pace,
at how it moves us, without
us being aware that we have moved
—to calculate its spiral radius, without instruments
& work near those doors each day,
would time slow? It is, after all, relative
to experience, then logically
(to slow or stop time) a constant state
of perfect boredom must be sternly observed; no
anticipation, neither excitement nor hope of change
—what a dreadful truth to learn.
& yet those doors, lead
to other doors, through them, in fact,
to exits & other scenarios,
flexible jambs swinging back
& forth— no Janus in this economy
to guard the sleepwalker out
the other end of the gloaming,
written in code of the liberal universe
that Busan cannot translate
smeared in smog, as it is.
Fragments of body parts,
a head, the symmetric camber
of shoulders, half a neck,
the torso, arms, ropey
without a left hand,
abs like Battenberg cake
— valuable products
draped from them: a blue
polyester sash; gew gaws
resembling jade, rose quartz,
emerald, ruby, all made
of unrecycled plastic.
This is the unachievable
paragon of excellence
& it has no respiratory system,
no beating heart, no rudder
to steer it on course.
& like these unmoving fragments are superimposed
seen but not heard,
the figures pacing
uniformly through here, are seen
but not heard too & though they move, they’re fixed
on determined routes by schemes
fixed to the track of a scent,
by hunger— this is our imperfect nature
perfecting itself one credit card payment
at a time &
seeing as the tungsten &
the halogen stripped us of any dignity,
our secure pecking order for physiognomy,
which we’ve broken into grids, a jigsaw
puzzle with a few pieces, much of it missing
—to get new pieces, riddles must be answered,
riddles set for ourselves, but unacknowledged
& neither the answers, nor
the beginning of the search
can be bought
over the counter.
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.
There are 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 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 glinting 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
in quality, imperceptible to the untrained
— it all comes out the same ocean at
their backs, mast heads hovering
above the canopy of
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
—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 the sea front
an armada of merchant vessels
in the dock?
In the airport
limp bodies on
their parents like
& 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
— tourists anxious to begin afresh
for a few distracted days.