Who put a magnet in the loin…

This should raise some discussion.

Who put a magnet in the loin
to watch it pulled clean through a mortared wall?

The a cappella traffic gives mice
& birds migraines— make(s) food a weapon!

Younger poets are charmed by polysyllables
: they’ve ample time to waste

—am i still young or have i always been
this old? My allotted time

has never felt that short | so much spare
then what to do with it all?

As poets grow grey & dewlaps skip
the floor they switch from scudding words

to steady | stomping monosyllables |
to keep the time they have from pecking bone.

The sun has left off land | 2 cats melt
into rock & shadow | stalking ducks

with water at their back | the cats
know better than to lunge the arc of dusk.

Streets of Jeju part 2

A salient feature of the Jeju landscape is how fluid the switch from farm land to town is, often with farmland inside the town. This allows for a seamless & productive day of back n’ forth. Admittedly this is not the case here, although the farm land in these pictures is only 10 minutes walk from Hallim town, it isn’t inside the town, exactly, though the area name is Hallim-eup. Another feature is construction. Everyday, i pass multiple big construction projects, which wouldn’t happen in England. Their is a continual rattle  of metal & thrumming of big engines. This makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the farm plots, huge hackberry trees & homunculus, traditional houses. But of course it also brings huge strain to the limited resources of an island. Soon Jeju will begin to feel the same strains as Santorini in Greece: inflated property prices for locals, limiting of utilities for locals & jobs that are unsatisfying, because they are all in the service industry. Problems that, when the sort of money that is involved in tourism is involved, means they don’t get sorted properly & voices go unheard for too long.

You can view part 1 here.

Hallim & Ongpo

These locations have appeared in numerous poems & i have written a great many of my poems whilst out walking or riding around these places. They are not the prettiest places & i sometimes wonder what it is about them that appeals to me. i think it is their ruggedness. There is a sense of desolation, that they have been forgotten & left to the weather.  & yet, they are so noisy with shape & shade, with dilapidation & trash, with motion & sound— forlorn, yet impressive. Real, unpretentious aesthetics that the camera laps up.  This is where the tourists never come & yet they are the most vibrant areas of the island. i shouldn’t complain & i sure don’t wish for tourists to discover these places.

The Larkin Industrial Complex: time for confession

Larkin, cigarette unlit, almost gesticulating with it, sitting in a squat, claustrophobic living room, bunny beside him, LPs lining the shelf, is nattering with John Betjeman, & delineates the whereabouts of a Poet’s influences. After remarking that people often criticism him for being miserable (though he believes himself to often be, somewhat humourous & doesn’t explain how he deals with criticism, which is what Betjeman wants to know), he explains that

“One’s poetry is based on the kind of person one is & the environment they find themselves in— one doesn’t choose the poetry one writes…”

with the implication we might add, that it, chooses the Poet. Nice to think that the poems i wrote have a mind & picked me.
What interests me though is how conscious can a poet then be if the poetry has chosen them due to factors, not exactly out of their control, but having been accrued from a lifetime spent in the company of one’s self & their environment? Is all poetry in some sense, inescapably confessional? We must watch our step. If the poem has a mind of its own, does it, in return, confess us? Wish i could have asked Larkin this.
The Confessional as a school of poetry is still disliked by some (i have seen it mocked in Facebook feeds, by poets, with books of theirs on bookshop shelves) & even the writer’s that make up its canon, were none too favourable of the label. Berryman famously denounces it in his foreword to The Dream Songs. Roethke, though i read his book of prose writing On the Poet & His Craft, never (if memory serves) acknowledges it, nor even mentions it. Ted Hughes expresses its influence as freeing him from the fustiness of English poetry at that time, Plath introducing him to it.

—(Aside: perhaps anyone reading this with further insights can add it in the comments— i write all these pieces with the few texts to my disposal, what trustworthy essays i can rummage out of the internet; & these days i’ve found some good podcasts & old documentaries, i am at the will of my own volition, which is worrying)—.

What is the root of this criticism? Well, i’d hazard a guess that its due to the capitalization of “confessional” being viewed as a pointless annexation to poetry. Poetry is organically a medium in which the big I AM takes the proscenium, without much truculent opposition? We expect to read of somebody, of the poet, even when their subject is not themselves. The choice of theme & subject reveals much about the author. It stands in, whether directly or indirectly as an expression of self & environment— we are to interpret what we read after all.
If then, poetry is a mode of expression that capitalizes on confession, it doesn’t need to be endowed with any special relevance by being bent into the laws of a School. If what Larkin says has any validity, it stands to reason that if any noun should represent the poet’s efforts, then the poet’s name is a perfectly acceptable label to mark their poetic style & range.
We might add what his longtime friend Kingsley Amis says, that he is

“Almost [don’t be swayed by his passivity; i interpret this as a rhetorical forage for the correct words] convinced he’s telling me what he feels. That none of the attitudes, none of the sentiments, have been thought for the occasion, or are ones he doesn’t hold.”

So we have some evidence that Larkin is being himself in his poems.
i should outline, before i go on, my definition of both “Confessional” & “confessional”, in poetry, as i want it to be understood, going forward in this essay. My interpretation does not lean on the religious confession of sin or guilt, nothing so secretive, the poem may act as a confessional box, with a divider, behind which the poet may pour themselves outward; but nothing really so, dare i say, sinister— darkness & madness linger behind both; though faith too may be both an existential & spiritual problem for the poet, it is not exclusively a religious one.
Rather, i have always thought of it as a use of self to engage with the world through poetry, an act of cathartic release from the cooped up quarters of one’s mind, a jettison of anxieties that are caused by the world & can in turn, affect the world (of the reader) for good or ill. In short, treatment of environment & self.
Though Larkin is known for writing a you-can’t-fool-me-rational-democratic poetry, he isn’t always straight with us & i would put this down to his Englishness. We English, or at least a good chunk of us, don’t feel comfortable wearing emotions inside out. We cluster everything within & they wend their odd ways out in quirks & fumbling, but usually excessive politeness; Larkin was well mannered in the upper middle class English way.
Larkin, i’d say, reveals much in the locations he picks, which is why he persisted living in Hull for so many years: he didn’t want to be a writer who visits a place & writes as a tourist, but as part of the fabric of the region. Larkin has become synonymous with Hull, something i don’t think he’d quarrel with, though he never felt he belonged anywhere & dreaded that how we live measures our own nature as Mr Bleaney explains from his spartan boarding house room.
In the poem Here Larkin doesn’t tell us he’s swerving east, from rich industrial shadows towards Hull, but his closing line (if you’ve been to Hull) is a giveaway: as you approach Hull, you travel with the Humber to your right, large enough to not see much, if any land beyond it & it feels, once you finally arrive at the station, as if you’ve reached the end of England (or one of its ends). But i would contest that Hull is a figurative front for something celebratory.
Here, is the 1st poem of Larkin’s 1964 collection The Whitsun Weddings, which was his 3rd volume, following from 1955s The Less Deceived. He was drip feeding lines, erasing them to re-write them with minor adjustments, which in turn would be erased. For title poem The Whitsun Weddings, this went on for some 2-3 years; i think he began writing the title poem the same year The Less Deceived was published.
During the time of writing The Whitsun Weddings, Larkin was the librarian at Brynmor Jones Library. This casts a different light on his opening line swerving east, from rich industrial shadows. Is Larkin (perhaps, unbeknownst to himself) saying that he has finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, or ocean at the mouth of the estuary, his route highlighted through the terrain of the creative impulse, having left the shadows of creative industry, the shadows of the quotidian, which, consider, he doesn’t use a bleak adjective to describe, but the word rich? This is an unexpected word choice & illustrates a desire to articulate that he is impressed with his industriousness, celebrates it even as the integral dynamo for his productivity, which despite being slow, does find its way. Larkin says somewhere that he couldn’t, nor would he want to be tasked with writing all day, if he were a full time writer; that he actually enjoyed working a day job, the order & duty. The title Here is telling: as if to say, “I am still here, writing & being industrious, even if you haven’t heard from me in a while.”
Larkin, is often charged with being miserable, as mentioned above, but i think some of this was a character he played. He knew like Dylan Thomas how to appeal to people’s sense of what to expect from a poet’s extrovert personality. His poems reveal much & to me, a conflicted man. The last line of the 3rd stanza leading into the 4th of his poem Here goes

Isolate villages, where removed lives
Loneliness clarifies.

Larkin never married. He hated marriage. Perhaps, it was a dislike of permanence, of something sticking & growing fetid; which is ironic considering his fidelity to place. Though it may only be the fact of his using the images that tell us so, permanence makes an appearance in the 3rd stanza, as a list of locations, which include tattoo-shops, the slave museum & mortgaged half built edges, which are all permanent things.
But despite the loneliness, there is a Romantic element burrowed away in Larkin’s stanzas. We have the pastoral of ships, the potential to journey beyond restraint, to become changed; a foreshadowing of a more Romantic Larkin, of Romantic content, or even just intent. In addition there is the luminously peopled air which ascends. A clear upwards motion, the people changed from the derogatory cut-price crowd. But then the ending leaves us, well me at least, feeling ambiguous & this is where i really draw my conclusion that Larkin is conflicted. Reaching the land suddenly beyond a beach Larkin concludes that Here may be

                                  ,..unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

Now unfenced existence may be a lusted freedom, a freedom we don’t even know we want, like the paradise he expresses previous generations secretly desire, when they see two youngsters who he guesses are fucking each other; but that paradise comes later in High Windows. However, if we are facing the sun, the sun is in our eyes & we can’t see this unfenced existence without squinting, & we can’t trust someone or even something untalkative to describe it to us & we also can’t touch what is out of reach. So all our senses are reduced to being useless fixtures. We are blank. But then we know the paradise is out there, it is ahead of us always. Is that it for Larkin? To exert yourself, with only the hope that the next poem will come? That time will gradually alter everything whether for better or worse, without us ever really witnessing it till much later?
There is always hope as long as the poet remains industrious, on his toes; so long as the confession is always on the tip of the tongue to be chased into form; so long as his characterizations of the tall I AM’s depictions of place, cooperate & soldier onward; then existence, i guess, remains unfenced, it must always be so for the poet;— what would a poet have to write about in a perfect world?

—(i want to repeat, as i have said in previous essays that this is not a definitive criticism with stable foundations, i know many who read these are extremely well read & can bring a lot to the continuation of the essay, through discussion; the comment feed in previous essays was great. So please, the comments are below & i am all ears & willing: do you think poetry is essentially confessional? What does that say about Confessional poetry? Is that the only poetry there is? Should i shut up & go jump in the sea? Do you think Larkin is Confessional or confessional in other way? Do you like/dislike Larkin? How about Confessional poetry? Do you confess [un]consciously in your poetry?  If this essay interests you but you don’t feel confident, do not be anxious, people are more magnanimous than you may think & your questions or criticisms with be received fairly. Thanks for reading. One last thing, Larkin’s poem here, for those who don’t know it, can be found easily by searching it in Google, it is very good)—.

A miserable git no quarrel there…

One of them difficult poems i’ve been banging on about lately.

A miserable git no quarrel there | Larkin
the everyman’s bard, the lad the lark Going, going
— i see what he was driving at | it came to pass
: our tarmac | clogged up vagus nerves & ventricles
the fields fenced & penalties for fishing pools
—the folk don’t give a toss so long
as there’s a Topshop in town & extra pubs
so they can move in cycles of that place
got shit so now I drink in the Lamb’s Arse
.
They’re all the same unless a messery’s on draught
or the landlord never rinses out the pipes
—maybe if the Guinness doesn’t go down well.

The world’s always been down the shitter
& yet Max Tegmark blathers on about AI
to a crowd of Google maniacs | the coming
Enlightenment of Tech
— everyone claps
he sells books of guess work | larkin about.
Seems to me another resource squanderer
but i like him & | a Luddite with an LED candle
worried machines will lay off some poor sod
left to scrap a livelihood from soup kitchens
& what he forages in refuse. There’re interims
between the point of calculus & results put
to some benefit | “by the populace for the populace.”

In that gray patch | plenty of room for error.
Regard Thatcher’s great plan for the city
Gillette’s cylindrical monolith apartments
J.W. Dunne’s Serialism & inventive streak on time.
i’m pissed up | the booze is cheap | best quit
while i’m ahead | trail off to the Land of Nod…
(…Tardigrades living on the floss n’ lint
of my nonsense | when you’ve so much to eat
beyond the Oort Cloud! | Millennia later
you returned to Earth evolved & full of fever.

i speak with one of them | measured words
from the lips of a doughy scholar | looks like us.)

Busan: City by the Sea

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
energy down
                                 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
for him.
                                     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.

Pub Bookshelf

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

i

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.

ii

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.

iii

& yet those doors, lead
to other doors, through them, in fact,
eventually
                              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.

iv

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.

v

& like these unmoving fragments are superimposed
apparitional figures
                                         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
like animals
                                 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

1

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.

2

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
                                         underbelly;
to see such a thing plummet
would break the city
in segments.

3

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
                                           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.

4

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 the sea front
an armada of merchant vessels
in the dock?

Departure

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.

Busan: City by the Sea— part 2

Second part. A tour of a department store & all the frills & thrills, the worst case scenarios & the separations that continues to ensue because…

Busan: City by the Sea— part 2

Shinsaegae (The New World) Department Store

i

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 the matter
of a defensive position, with a weak source;
a matter for pride & personality, of idealism
—nothing changes now
everyone is right even if
                                            it’s only in their opinion.

ii

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.

iii

& yet those doors, lead
to other doors, through them, in fact,
eventually
                       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.

iv

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.

v

& like these unmoving fragments are superimposed
apparitional figures
                             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
like animals
                        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.

Busan: City by the Sea— Part 1

Photographs were not the only product of my Busan trip, naturally, a poem emerged, a long poem.

Busan: City by the Sea— part 1

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
energy down
                                     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
for him.
               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.

Pub Bookshelf

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.

Storm & Stress

An oldish poem i have neglected for sometime, until i recently injected some new words & remodeled it.

Storm & Stress

the light switch of the storm
shaped like the roots of the 팽 tree, its fibrous anchors
split the torrential downpour in a sparagmotic seizure
& tugged the claggy cloud, the sky itself with meteoric thrust
toward the ground.

afterwards, as the storm reeled to sea
i found a conduit persimmon torn from its heels
moaning agony, dying— the fruits of its labour mushed in sodden soil.

the sun appeared
& from its twin

hard hats, over-worn faces, a cement mixer
& bulldozer guffawing

leaked out…

팽= peng, the Jeju word for the Chinese Nettle Tree.

moaning at the moonlight

You may disagree with what is against your sensibilities & beliefs, but sometimes the reasons for a culture’s differences are tied up with a history, still in memory through those who lived it & continue to remember it. & so the habit persists. i have a dog, & though the farming of dog meat (not all that popular) is grizzly & seems sort of pointless, it seems tied up with a time when Koreans had no food & anything that could be eaten was eaten. A hunger few of us can comprehend & this hunger is remembered even by my wife. So before you judge, think of reasons why. i should add, most people don’t like eating dogs, it is an old, dying tradition.

moaning at the moonlight

the moonlight, stencils
Halla’s silhouette—a rare sight.
& so a grieving hound moans
Halla shouldn’t have to reveal
the camber roll of her fluted form, at night

— at least i hope that’s why
it bawls like unoiled pistons
& not because it is late

late enough for its master
muffled by sleeping farmers
to beat the poor thing tender
making the meat of it more succulent.
but, i have no right to tell another culture what
is fair & just nor judge: they have known
hunger, knotting into habit
& it goes some way to excusing them.