this poem made an appearance at The Poetry Shed sometime last year, June i think. some may not have got to read it so here it is again. thanks to Abegail Morley for publishing this.
where the throat of the grass is driest
never having sampled Jeju’s mineral cool spring water
that cuts through the cypress forests trimmed with ferns
to the doorsteps of houses & into farmers’ taps.
where bored looking boats are anchored in brackish water.
where the stucco of tiny houses flakes like acne,
in desperate need of grouting round the kitchen pipes
from which steam seeps like abstruse enjambments.
where forlorn buildings are without evidence of life
but i can hear faint whisperings of soap opera ghosts
& old Korean songs about homesickness, love & parting.
where after years of salt water walloping it,
hand prints of rust splay the lighthouse’s cheek.
where tires weigh down fishing nets for no apparent reason
: nothing moves except the wind sailing gull-kites
who hover round the restaurant to harpoon chance meals.
where a bitch & her scar faced tyke stray,
tugboat eyed & peculiar for Jeju’s homeless dogs,
because they do not scatter like the tourists’ litter
but chew at the hub of my boots, paw at my scarf,
bury wet noses like washed cherries in the crevices of my clothes.
the mother worries that the tyke is being a pest, winches it away,
as if she knows that pestering might make me alter
my decision to feed her some morsel hidden in my ample pockets
-supine, she scuffles with the pup who claws her dugs.
i hold the pup up for closer inspection; it seems so familiar with me,
at ease, as if it greets me from a previous incarnation;
i wonder if the circumstances were better last time we met?
on the perimeters
poor street bitch, famished & lonely, tiptoe
your perfect parabola, study me
for sudden movements, then scuttle anxious bursts
in mimicry of all the other homeless dogs,
risking the treacherous oscillations of traffic
to protect the precious cargo you ferry to life
: you must have 5 pups or thereabouts due.
in your warm hammock-womb
they swing to the omniscient hush of the sea
& develop in the only peaceful sleep they’ll know.
i don’t read in your tidy steps any complaint
about our leftovers being your only nourishment.
how are your sufferings measured?
if you do wrong, you wedge your tail between your legs & pin your ears back.
if cut you bleed & whelp, if throttled whine.
if without your permission we approach your pups you snarl.
if you see another dog you sob for their affection.
if cold you dither once it slinks beneath your fur.
so we’re not so dissimilar, you & i.
the disused perimeters of this island appeal to us,
the outer reaches skeptical of inward things
affect us, so too the elements & lonesomeness. we chose to be
as far away from tourists & their selfie sticks as possible;
it’s here, where we’re the only life for miles, we meet.
the harbour town, hallim, where i live, has an abundance of street dogs & they must have lived such miserable lives to distrust people so much. should you wave a tin of tuna before them they wouldn’t come & take it from you, for fear of what you may be capable of; regardless how pure you know your intentions to be.
i respect their capacity to endure. to endure loneliness. to survive. they cannot grumble. they have not the mechanism for grumbling & yet their complex emotions are plain to see when you note how they abandon a comfort to elude us. that we are to be steered clear of. not to be trusted. i think we can learn something about ourselves from their insight.