the cardboard box collector

these men & women are a frequent sight on the streets of Korea. i have been told mixed reasons for their collecting: some do it for a few extra pennies, some because they’re bored, some because they need to; all of them are pushing on in age & stride & never smile.

the cardboard box collector

in residential streets or mandibular shops,
but mostly in slim alleys fed up with rubbish
& fenced in from above by cables,
an old man, fault lines like a geographer’s thoughts
in his face & hands which tremble, skin like a dead moth
due to a superfluity of ultra-violet rays,
collapses & loads cardboard boxes.
stacks them on his hand cart, which grows
like a pannier of fungus on a rotten piece of wood,
for a little extra money or maybe he’s just bored.

& people with plugs for hands take no notice
of how painful his scoliosis must be,
take no notice of how they may be like him one day,
take no notice of how tired he must be
of watching the hot asphalt all day long
: he couldn’t raise his eyes up even should he wish.
they only keep an eye open for the nearest socket
so they can fade from the unnecessary sun.

(photograph by me).

on the perimeters


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.