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…
Still a bit to go from the Yoon Yong poems.
The revolution was televised
…The protest to impeach Park Geun-hye on those cold December nights
when the people cupped LED candles for “moral warmth”
& made Gyeongbokgung resemble a map
of the observable universe circumscribed with its own light
—it was then I felt the will of a collective |
the will moreover of Koreans to better themselves.
Our ancestors looked on us & encouraged
our behaviour | our rebellion against the absurdity
of a leader who puts Botox | Viagra
& Shamanism ahead of her people’s welfare.
My disappointment was palpable when
after all the work of protest was done
people just went off to eat fried chicken
& drink beer. I don’t know what I expected
but not that
—I joined them…
Title says it all. I edited the inimitable Marie Marshall’s journal of zen bones, the zen space. I was asked in winter & due to snowballing circumstances it took me a while to snap myself round; but I did, it is done, you can read it here, there’s some good stuff & photography by me. Thanks.
Back to Yoon Yong, now nearing the end. We found Yoon Yong last time, riffing on marriage. Now she’s drunk.
Drink to forget (maybe Sunday)
…That evening | walking down a busy road | enjoying
the cool air discouraging the heat of the day
but never quenching it & flanked
by orange groves | in the drainage ditch
near a dark culvert | a pig skeleton | bleached
& patched with mold | patina of pine needles
& a chocolate bar wrapper caged in the ribs |
pocked with crow pecks | the pelvis snapped free
of the spine | the cranium dented & cracked
—this was important once: it fed someone |
brought happiness & people communed around it
for warmth & comfort.
A tabby cat’s bright eyes fed by the dark | she makes
a pppppphhhsssssss to frighten it away
from the bleached bones that belong to her figure of speech
—I’ve always hated cats | I identify
all my worst characteristics with them
& in my rebellion | in my misguided
effort to stem their effect | I have translated
them into the feline’s tarty motive & motion
: a hodgepodge transference.
I’m no better than people with a deep seated fear of dogs |
the roots of which are the will to conquer nature.
Groups of girls | dressed in their own clothes
which amounts to a uniform
“somehow talk at length without saying anything.
—technology has arranged the world in such
a fashion that you don’t have to experience it...”
Much obliged to Kate Garrett the hard working editor-poet-mother for finding value enough in my poem & giving it a pew in this congregation of poets; especially pleased to see Amy Soricelli in the issue, it’s a breath-taker. You can & should read the issue here.