5 poems published @The Wagon Magazine

Thanks to Krishna Prasad for taking these 5, which, I don’t think are very easy poems & particularly the last poem, which is about the Seorak War Memorial in which the poet imagines histories superimposed in real time. I went through a stage of submitting poems without titles, simply using the lemniscate & this has been my only success, so I am pleased about that. In addition to my poems, John Looker has written a Letter from London for this issue of The Wagon & John is always worth a read.

The link is here.

Happy reading.





“Be like your mother” (8:44 a.m.)

The next poem in my Yoon Yong series.

Be like your mother” (8:44 a.m.)

…Orange is warm & marriage is blue
—my mother is transparent | I always wanted (want…?)

her transparency | to follow her example
—what stopped me | or rather | who? My young self mostly

still straggling in the remotest substrata of me
like the flag of a bankrupt corporation.

Is my skin too lemon to wear a heart on my sleeve?
—“We will be landing shortly please make…”

“…me a cuppa’ tea darling brew it for 4 minutes like I like it.”
(That double like makes my skin crawl.)

Her husband lounging on the sofa engrossed in some Netflix
drama on his laptop | eating his way through

a pack of chocolate biscuits | crumbs gathering
in the folds of his hoody—I had too much say

in myself…

Hunger (8:39 a.m.)

Hunger (8:39 a.m.)

…I remember clearly… lepers from Bible sermons
made me tickle stomached

—I never read the passages alone
even when mother underlined them

to be read before I slept | I could summarize them enough
to get away without reading them again

: nature never bites off more than it can chew.
“The sea eats land. All islands are slowly being eaten”

Jeju is no exception. We are all islands.
Nature shares our appetites & being nature’s extension

we don’t so much share as indulge overly
like the snake eating its own tail

—“Ouroboros is it?” Not likely | we have dragons
in Korean culture | which eats snakes for breakfast.

I keep asking him to eat less & if he will eat so much eat healthily
: eat Korean food | fomented & raw vegetables

— he only uses our food as a simile
to compliment how well I age…

I used to cook him traditional recipes
I learned from my grandma but he turned his nose up

“would you stop complaining about what I eat
…I must eat & I can’t eat the muck your culture puts

on the dinner table | like something rotting on a Petri dish.”
I wanted to throw a dish of kimchi at him.

I imagined rotting cultures breeding in his pores
& finally usurping his cells & devouring him inside out.

—“Miss | would you like a glass
of mandarin juice or water…?”

Midflight digression III Yoon Yong on language (8:37 a.m.)

The 4th poem from my long narrative poem Yoon Yong. (If you go to ‘Korea Poems’ in the menu, you can find the first 3.)
I still keep looking over these, thinking they should be read in a book, but I have yet to take action toward this, I still haven’t quite remedied with myself if this is something that is going to end up with me explaining myself over & over; even defending myself. It is, maybe, a silly feeling; nevertheless I can’t shake it. I feel safe putting them here. So…

Midflight digression III Yoon Yong on language (8:37 a.m.)

…“All language is order wrenched from disorder.”
There should have been a God of Context. “That’s just God.”

Who gives a toss about gods of boots or wine
—we need a whole new pantheon for the contemporary world.

The entropy of language is a crutch.
There are immense amounts of information

down the plughole in the redundancy
of letters | in predictability without vowels

: Clrdge sd smthng bt tht smwhr.
At least a word without vowels in English

still manages to retain sense: in Korean | a character
without a vowel completely throws the balance off

—vowel harmony means sticks without stones.
Hangul looks like a catalogue of perimeters

ㅁ |ㅇ & ㅅ from which to survey & imprison ㅕㅑ
—the panopticon terrified me with its squint.

English offered an exit from those constricting symbols |
comparing dictionaries “mine’s bigger than yours.”

The volume of words in English peaked my curiosity.
The mysteries of an alien language’s deeper shades

felt like an admiral sailing into blank spaces on a map
— I cannot express the extent of my regret for that naivety.

Language is never the thing itself.
Every conversation is a fiction of sorts | especially anecdotes.

News correspondents are a good example
: they report the news just like the anchor does | the anchor could

report all of the news but then we’d likely doubt
the credibility of the reportage because there is no locale.

The same reason we take so many photographs these days
—they back us up when we are narrating the past |

they prove that we were there & thus are here
—people live a fiction but dare not admit it…

Midflight digression II: Foucault & sexuality (8:23 a.m.)

3rd poem by my long, narrative poem Yoon Yong. You can find the other II poems under the heading Korea Poems if you want to catch up.

Midflight digression II: Foucault & sexuality (8:23 a.m.)

…“To paraphrase Foucault…” my English teacher
lived in Bordeaux & Paris for a time | he never shut up about him.

I’m certain he was gay | I felt grown up knowing a gay man.
Why do I recall his off-the-cuff lectures?

Like the time he explained the porn industry’s downfall
—his theory being that “young couples

suck & poke each other in front of iPhones | shamelessly.
This act of daring showcases their youth & love

—a private window into the fortunes of youth |
like choux pastries in a bakery window.

For those nostalgic of the time when they were beautiful
it is a way for them to relive the past

: they transpose their own recollections
onto the youngsters bodies— a sort of oculus rift.

This is the sexual revolution the 60s couldn’t have
because they didn’t have the tech.

Now teens can fuck & in five minutes have an audience
who cannot interfere directly but still inject a thrill

into the taboo of public sexual acts.”
Sipped his coffee “like a Frenchman” whatever that means.

I told him he was being naïve | that often the filming
was done in secret— #metoo: some pile of shit film student

during my MA at Seoul National | who thought he was documenting
the sexual libertinism of two lovers | breaking the taboos

of Korean culture— no one to complain or report the intrusion to
—just cram the shame deep down enough to function.

I know he wanked off to those videos
: after all | they banned Internet porn in Korea

& little boys without girlfriends to crank their handle
in a climate of loneliness fill their nights with Pa[l]m..

In the airplane loo: constipation is an “obstruction
of justice…” the world shit’s on us | we shouldn’t

be kept from shitting on it in reply.
“How crude miss Yong…”

Flight to Jeju (Friday 7:45 a.m.)

This poem is the 1st of a series of poems making a single long poem, which i have called Yoon Yong. I don’t know what to do with it, so I might put a few up here now & then, to see what people think.
The basic outline is that Yoon Yong is a 30 something Korean woman on a weekend trip to Jeju, alone. She works as a translator & is married to an English man. She is conflicted culturally. The poem is a mix of her soliloquies, Jeju scenery & conversations or just quotes from people in her past. Yoon Yong is nothing like my wife.

Flight to Jeju (Friday 7:45 a.m.)

Rising out a futurity of turbid cloud | pulpy buboes
the airplane lances to the sound of applause.

“It baffles me | in spite of the countless daily flights
that take off every hour & break through barricading smog |

that there is not a larger sense of urgency to fix the sky.”
I’m getting out— “we’re nowhere near…”

I’ll sweat it out | not get abroad myself
—i should not spend this time from Seoul | nullifying

myself with psychometric tests | but spend it frivolously
on remembering who I am | spotting the difference

—playing “eye spy with my little eye something beginning with… 유…”
my own interior sister & mother for playmates.

Nor fall in line with the cultural stereotype like
young couples taking in-flight selfies | nuzzled

in the crease of one another’s elbows | dressed
in couple-clothes & silly hats—they look inter-bred |

arms numb with romance.
Yoon Yong is glad to be spared that rigmarole

: I’m not photogenic (“attractive in maturity”)
& he sure as hell isn’t with his serial killer chin

& bitten off gawp | his nondescript hair like a winter lawn
& nose shaped like a syringe—we still look strange

with faces in the same frame | locked smiles |
pretending we’re sooooo happy. “& for whose benefit…?”

Zainab and the Hierarchy of Rape Culture

Zoha says everything. her voice is clear & informed on this issue. It saddens me that any woman needs to say all this, that the promise of change seems so remote. Please read this, it is important.


On 5th January, 2018, in Kasur, Pakistan, a missing-persons FIR was filed for Zainab by her paternal uncle, a day after she had gone missing. She had been living with her maternal aunt while her parents were away on Umrah in Saudi Arabia and had left for a madrassah in the Road Kot area near her house on 4th Jan. Footage was soon received by the family that depicted her walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road.

On 8th January, the police recovered her body from where it had been left in a rubbish heap (different articles state differentlocations). An autopsy report showed she had been killed two to three days earlier, sexually assaulted, tortured and strangled to death, the details of which are still being investigated. The body was buried on Wednesday when the parents returned, the funeral prayers led by Pakistani Awami Tehreek’s chief, Tahirul Qadri

View original post 2,153 more words

“It’s been sometime since last I rubbed…”

This is a poem. It is not my opinion.
i am a little nervous posting it, because of its subject matter, i have however decided to post it, because i have thought a lot about why i should post it & that it is not unreasonable to do so. The ugly side of this poem is something i have heard said in similar contexts somewhere, but i can’t (much to my embarrassment) recall the source; it was a long time ago.
i don’t write poems wholly expressing my opinions on matters. My poems showcase society, environment, ideas, politics, ideology & more in their multifaceted subtleties & proclivities, from the ugly & improper to the morally correct & upstanding & as much as i can process in between & outside.
The world is a mess. This must be clear to anyone of sound judgement.
i do not aim to pull the wool over the ugly with the unquestionable beauty that manifests itself in such variety. That is not a poet’s task; it may be, but it is not how i see it. It is only by seeing the ugliness that beatitude is strengthened. Perfectibility is implausible to me, at this moment in time. i believe in constant change & the force of expression to be a vehicle of catharsis.
So if you are offended by this, you may be, i cannot staunch that emotion in you, in fact you should be, but it is society, ultimately, that you should be angry with, not me. i won’t take all that responsibility, only part of it, because i accept that we all allow ugliness to persist in some way or other, collectively.
This is a bleak admission. i do believe people are inherently good, but that we are pushed into our apathy & sometime cruelty. You only have to see the results of the Milgram or Zimbardo experiments to come to this conclusion. They haunt me in a way. We have a herd mentality. i am not extracting myself from this charge. Nor would i want to, for what would i be without my humanity?

“It’s been sometime since last I rubbed a banknote in my palm |
I quite forgot they smell of blood.”
Grave plots look tidier this time of year | nobody
can be arsed to clear the summer knot
grown wild with too much moisture in the roots.
You’d think | if God (“fictionally”) gave 2 figs
about us | he’d open up a hotline | an 0800 No | or
get himself some fibre optic Broadband | we’re
carbon-pylons our veins the cabling | brains the modem

—“utter guff! his silence has gone on long enough…
if he ain’t got a Twitter & Facebook page
this time next year i’m sending out a search party.”

& so the sexual predators think their unbiased
subscriptions to numerous porn sites |
is a sort of digital seraglio or seed-bank | they query
: “what will become of these women?
It would be like releasing farm animals back into the wild |
the eco-system would be over-burdened
with domesticated smut.” They are instantly struck
by heavy objects flung out the wind’s hand
with force enough to split their bone.
The collective sigh of demographics lowered
the oxygen content in the atmosphere…

“Asthma attacks were rampant | my boy…”

One woman refused to lift a finger
: to do so was to give the nonsense force.
“i should not have to babysit the mouths of men!”
Another woman became trapped in a feedback
loop of Ctrl + Alt + Del— Ctrl + Alt + Del
—Ctrl + Alt + Del— Ctrl + Alt + Del—Ctrl + Alt

+ Del … “eat!”…

A funeral rite was once an art…

This is not a Christmas poem (i’ll pretend that isn’t happening), neither is it exclusively about Shelley, despite the Louis Edouard Fournier painting suggesting otherwise. i suppose, if the man being cremated is a poet, then the funeral rite, through contagious magic, becomes a work of art.

A funeral rite was once an art
but now | is nothing more (“or less”)
than | a service industry— a putting out of sight |
slinging the arrow of time | aflame
toward | at least | a metonymic pyre
—“to metaphor the dead is to keep
them dead | but metonym replaces with a life”
Why would you say such silliness?
: “the lobed hermaphrodite hunkered
in the snitching dynamo of our cortex |
acute enough to bathe us in dimethyltryptamine.
That’s what you said once over drinks.”
& yet | they swiped a digit round
the beveled edges of their Smartphone.
She shuts the device between her legs |
to trim & foul the agon of history
but | the mythos & logos tap
into her like a gavel rasping code.
“The beaches of man | now made with
the granulated pulp of their literature.
We pick through the silt rubble for more
coagulate bits intact | in search of …|…
in hope of | lost forbidden words | to hear
aloud | with our tremulous voice
for the first time in millennia
while 99% just sun bathe Self.”