Filling in the blanks— a poem about Kim Yeong Gap (김영갑) the coda

hope something of the spirit of the man you absorbed from these lines that tried to bring him back from the dead


his dream

count the tallest trees with only Latin
& Korean names, the oreums feminine contours
involuntarily on fingers & toes
then follow the pheasant track stars through Halla’s forests
into dreams stacked like scoria stupas
& Jeju shaped like a woman sat atop
ready to be fondled & fucked in the gallery after hours
a gallery filled with masterpieces by an old man
—she hides any sickness sown
in the inner lining of her simple dress
sweeps it off with brushstroke fingertips
from along the aquiline face blushed
& dumbstruck with wet clay soft as sobs

—he never woke up.

& for now

i’m glad you died so spared from witnessing
the whittling of the pure unblemished hills you traipsed
around with camera mounted on its tripod slung over your shoulder
no border walls or structures interfering with your pace.

Jeju became much changed now populated with resorts the rich
Chinese business men build with austere gloom
the roads slick as acryl humming with white hire cars
ferrying air conditioned tourists poking telephones

out the window to capture proof they weren’t at work or home
on their merry way to family theme parks, a neon ugly fright
—or hassle Haenyo whose foraging waters became too polluted to fish
& makes them dizzy sick & poorer— but it’s the tourists’ right, right?

—i don’t know who i’m talking to.

clay figures

they’re you aren’t they, as the Lou Gehrig’s
advanced the slow collapse of neurons
all muscles withered to the texture of month old persimmon
until you atrophied into a twitching lump of flesh
a uniform heaviness pummeled by gravity
quietly dismantling under your own mass?

the tourists think them cute
something like the funny cartoon
monsters their children watch on TV
but i’ve learned with sense the truth
—your moods in clay tumescence
masks for the idea of you

: the meditator holy man flummoxed skeptic
outlier philosophically without a clue that anything means
patient observer expert in waiting sick man mind
at odds with a degenerating body worn like an old coat full of shells & rocks.

kneaded the atrophy out the tips
of finger & thumb, with kinetic shift
of palms & foresight
rid the body of rotting energy
transmigrated to a clay figure
that took the kiln blast
suffered & appeared from the flames
with a face then put in the weather
to heal up

— it didn’t work
but with the very least you tried
the end & the beginning

let this poem not end in dirt
where all should end, but where all
began— in front of the butchering sea
its flensed buttons of foam
dense as fingernails flung out the hand
of wind to spatter my embarrassed cheek
just the right distance from
death & creation

Filling in the blanks— a poem about Kim Yeong Gap (김영갑) 1st of 2 posts

this is one poem written in 7 sections, but i have decided to split it into 2 posts with accompanying photographs. i recommend seeking his work out, he is a treasure of Jeju, his death was a loss to Jeju & Korea, a singular, sensitive mind.

Filling in the blanksa poem about Kim Yeong Gap (김영갑)

filling in the gaps

if i typed his name, mangled it
into a search term for Google
to forage concrete dates & details from his life
would i learn the length of his stride
or topography he trampled on a single day
the membrane of his scent that holds
still in the memory of the sky & with the palm of the wind
leads the inquisitive to the garden of his genius
how many times the sun fluttered
its eye lashes at him, how he sipped hot tea
dressed on dim early mornings, held chopsticks
or broke into laugher the first time
his wrist jerked & he catapulted a lump
of rice at the wall scrunched his eyes
scratched his nose?—will they list the to-dos
in his head the whole man or half of him?
—would i be going about it right?
i think not: Kim Yeong Gap
knew nothing of search engines & so…


i’ll rather turn & read the braille of weather, hieroglyphs of plant
rock wave & how he flung open their arms with aperture
taught them swiftness of foot with exposure, expertly waited out

the wind’s thumb to smear the pliant cloud a frill of reeds
light & dark—foreshadowed the inevitability of ideal moments
analogue eye patient to fluctuations in the sped frames of life

& brisk as a lizard—click— the wind captured in the wetness
of eye the raw red of knuckle & forehead the dither of bone
a thread of moment tethered to a convex lens—you followed…



subject object

what to find in the sick face the children learning read & write
or playing on the swing that oscillates in the same motion of their smiles
& fullness of their tummies— the old naked Haenyo scrubbing salt
from her hair skin eyes who heard the shutter snap & click open
felt the cold glass lens, a moist eye on her cold blemished skin & no
second thought, shuttled him out her yard toward the mackerel grey sea
with curses in dialect & a buoy helicoptering above her head for use
as a weapon to shoo the peeping Tom? later over cups of makgeolli
she laughed it off & slapped his back with such ferocity the scaffold
of his flesh could barely handle the hammering of her bleached bone blow.


day out with wife & Len(s)

went for a little outing with the wife today & she actually agreed to be photographed, which she usually forbids. i think she is encouraging me with this photo lark as i have been doing it for the advertising company we hire & we have been getting more reservations because of my efforts, which is cosmic for me as i get a puppet to practice on & she’s photogenic, so job’s a gud’n.
went to a gallery by a deceased sculpture & photographer Kim Yeong Gab & his work is astonishing, his sculptures say a lot about him, he died of Lou Gehrig’s disease & they seem to be a manifestation of how the disease made his body feel. i am working on more work about him, a longish poem, so i won’t labour the subject of him here.