Yoon Yong dreams.
Napping on a sea wall after midnight
…She steals a trampoline from a trim backyard
—carries it on her back | over
the spinal cord of the Taebaek mountain range
to the edge of the world (all signposted)
—looks out on a sea of shadows
teasing her vulnerabilities into fear
the like of which no one has ever known.
She wants to report it to the world | there is a “suggestions” box |
she brought herself to the brink
of what she can endure
—to tease fear out of life & life out of fear
in her own tense…
Yoon Yong is drunk again.
Drinking to forget again (nearly home time)
…3 bottles of Soju later & staggering thoughtfully
through tight gullies | her stomach
packed full of pig | mouth reeking of garlic
noxious enough to stun a jindo—the stars like pheasant tracks
—if you count all the stars is that how old the universe is?
like counting tree rings to know the age of a tree.
What bollocks I think up sometimes!
The old houses shake under the wind’s saline weight |
a commotion of thin voices she can hear inside
as well as the clatter of dishes
—the noise of domesticity
reminding her to give her daughter a call.
There is no answer—she is probably sleeping.
She wants to punch the air
but realizes how juvenile & cliché it is |
she wants to box the moon | debate
with wind | dress in shadow drunken
on gloom to stir the poetic | rather
than parrot a language I hate.
“Rest | tomorrow is a big | new day…”
A poem from Yoon Yong. I had a debate in the pub the other week about onanism. I have a theory that the violence of men, may have its root in onanism: in one onanistic act, a man lays waste on a rag, to an entire population. Dylan Thomas was concerned with this. So is Yoon Yong.
…Reclined | tensing in the shallow relief of the sofa
his unimpressive prick in his left hand |
tugging it like a monk feeding prayer beads through
his pious fingers | the girl on girl porn panting
out of the Apple Mac—it tickled her
how he tucked it away quickly & closed the laptop lid
getting up to greet her with a peck on the cheek
& mumbling something quickly
“…about going out for dinner in Itaewon—pasta?”
I wonder if he just likes the one kind of porn |
is it habit & if he looks for women like me?
Mom called me when she found “sex magazines”
in her brother’s room.
Panicky as only our mother is she called | not sure what her
“duty to the situation” was— should she tell
the father | or have a private talk with her son
about the immorality of “touching yourself” | even
though she knows nothing about it
—this is what happens when no-one talks &
the “unspoken rule of thumb” is the solution
to taboos in polite society: no one
has the foggiest idea what to do…
As promised, more from Yoon Yong.
Library by the Sea— Geumneung Village
…An outdoor library with little wooden cubes
painted in shades of the sea & glass doors that hold 2 or 3 books
—sand | pomegranate red & grass |
the glass doors with smooth wooden knobs
& little bronze hasps | handmade chairs to sit & watch the sea
—Biyang island like a turtle | drinking sun.
Yoon Yong’s in Geumneung Village reading
a copy of Wordsworth’s Complete Works
—I couldn’t find my stride with English poetry | yes
I know the cadence of the iamb when it runs
but never felt its natural measuring of speech.
“The cloying decorum like a William Morris showroom”
as Dr. Stiles put it | fell on my deaf ears.
To me it sounded like a mechanized fuck
: the man on top plowing away
while the woman takes
“a pounding for king & country”
—the continuity of man breasting for Homo Spiritus…
There will be a Yoon Yong poem today & tomorrow. I promise.
…My cheekbones are fine | my chin if a little chiseled.
I don’t agree with where my hair parts
the same as my father’s | not symmetrical like my mother.
Glad I got mother’s long legs
but my father’s eyes.
Nose is fine | not too flat to use the sun for a clock.
Mother | watching her soap operas all afternoon
—do you identify with any of the characters mom?
“What strange questions you ask me Yoon Yong.
It’s just a TV show | it isn’t real.”
I once asked mom what a feminist is |
she told me “it’s the English word for woman | daughter…”
…The morning news buzzing in the background...
—Her father stopped reading the newspaper
when his sight grew dim.
She liked to see him read: she felt in good hands |
that her father could guide her.
She tried to replicate the paper’s cackle
with other materials—my own onomatopoeia
—when she played grown-ups.
Seldom would her father give the newspaper
as a prop— when he did | she kept
it till it wore to shreds.
He uses a tablet which comes nowhere close
to producing the same
authority & distinction…
Yoon Yong wakes into her final day on Jeju Island. This isn’t the last of the series, but it’s coming.
It must be the final day
…At dawn | the magpie matinee | oriole | finch | white eye |
starling | wren & sparrow shaking the air | the thick brush
& the weak light of the garden.
If someone wrote a poem about my life
I hope they’d never make me a Romantic.
Perched in a bay tree | 2 starlings | their heads pivot
like a teetotum “on its last legs.”
Their raspy eeks rattle dew from the leaves
which glaze a low wall—somebody left their washing out
tethered with shining spider webs.
Moisture & immature sun light.
Could I know myself better from this picture…?
Yoon Yong is edging closer to the end now. Just so you know, hagwons, in Korea, are privately run academies, which children attend as well as school. They are largely English academies, however there are math, science & art hagwons too. They fill a void school’s cannot fill due to the Korean school system not being arranged in levels of ability as they are (or were) in England, where students are placed in groups suitable to their ability. In Korea all abilities are put together in the hope that every student has the same opportunity. However, what this means is the level is set lower than a proportion of students, who just get bored. So hagwons challenge them & enable improvement. You must have money to send kids to good hagwons. It illustrates status & good hagwons can provide students a higher level of proficiency than their class mates at school, mother’s with a social milieu, teachers with jobs & business owners with a competitive though often profitable venture. In short, there are tons of hagwons.
The dilemma of loving a child
…My daughter must be taught to be an individual
—I can’t bear the thought of her becoming mechanized.
Little Sarang bashing at an iPad & squealing
as chunky characters pop & parade | singing nonsensically.
She must suffer for it like me—then I’ll love her.
She’ll succeed in being unique.
Is it not a life of agony to be an exile in your own culture?
Dual heritage will marginalize her perhaps
—her English will be naturalized
which will elevate her above all the other kids.
That’ll irritate all the fuddy-duddy stuck-up girls
I knew in high school | who now make-up
their daughters like princesses.
I won’t get those exorbitant hagwon bills.
She’s already on top. We are individuals against our will.
The democracy of character the cult of personality.
The Falun Gong of I
—our organs gauged out like a trowel foisting up a root.
Beaten for blood to test the resilience of our bone & muscle
by truncheons of our own making
—our leader AWOL overseas | with a permanent Visa
& eating well | living in luxury while
slowly | in pain we lose bits of ourselves
physically & then (after terms of endurance) mentally…
Finally pulled my thumb out & turned my computer on. So many books to read. Here we have Yoon Yong, mothering doubtfully, exposing her flaws through the flesh she has produced, as the image she produces in her dream. The biological aspect through the child image, becoming psychological to tell the identity where it falls into error. Something like that. I may have got mothering, feminism, love, dream, psychology, all of it wrong, but I could only persevere with the direction I felt, in essence, the most interesting for Yoon Yong as a fiction. Where I fall into error I have my intuitions, but I’d be more than pleased to be pointed out where else.
Her daughter Sarang (Love) appears in a dream
…“How many died of preventable ailments
because of a belief in transcendentalism?”
Her daughter with an adult’s voice
exposing flaws explaining where I steered myself wrong
what I could have done better | differently
—euphemisms | apothegms she couldn’t possibly know
at her young age—I scribbled notes but…
the pen contained only UV ink.
Motherhood is impossible | I worry continually
: I don’t want my Love to grow up to be someone I hate.
Everyone says “it just comes to you | it’s natural.”
I kept telling myself to love
this jaundiced looking ball of wool
& rolls of skin that cackled like a pocket radio.
The primitivism of it suckling hungrily at my swollen nipple
—I wanted to perform the ritual so badly
but it made clear to me how tainted | how cosmopolitan I was
: breast feeding repulsed me | it felt so animal.
Gravid | I pictured my belly’s contents
lift me out my life like a blimp filled with helium & confetti |
rousing me from my apathy like smelling salts |
out my very self—climbing | climbing out | skyward.
I couldn’t stomach Korean food during my pregnancy |
not even the postpartum seaweed soup rich in iron |
the olfactory idiom & lilting made me nauseous
—I craved quiche or omelet | anything yellow…
Thanks to David Cooke for taking these two very different, very new poems; one written in December while I was in Brixham over Christmas & the other written only a week or so ago. Accompanying the poems are a few hundred words of explanatory prose on the hyperobject, a term I use in the poem Nightmare in a Hyperobject, an eco-poem borrowing terms from contemporary ecological philosophy. All can be read here.