During my last few weeks in Korea, I made one final push to photograph the environment I called home for so long. Despite my tone of voice of late, I am making valiant efforts to reorient myself, this mostly involves going to the pub, as well as quaffing a few foaming ales, my reorientation includes finding work, making friends, reestablishing friendships, taking very long walks in the nearby forests, filling in obscene amounts of online forms, going to the bank, the Job Center, calling receptionists with pretty voices, talking to a bank customer services adviser about D.H. Lawrence’s free verse poetry & the difficulties of studying this & banging my head against the wall until I suffer semi-concussion. Such are the joys of no longer living in the 4th dimension.
…“THE DEATH OF LOVE OF ANYTHING…”
written on the front of a cute girl's t-shirt.
I hate people who wear sloganed t-shirts
as if it speaks volumes about their “life philosophy.”
The kind of people who might say
“I went to the University of Life” but work in an office.
You cannot experience the death of anything
you live beyond | you cannot experience your own death
& to experience another’s death | well…
we are more often than not horrified by the statistic of it
—the likelihood of it happening to us
or of the proximity of the person in the hierarchy of our relationships.
We don’t expect death to enter so close into our inner circles
Greatness | something (someone) remarkable
a person | thing or idea
may right now be | in just the right juxtapose
—deaf | dumb & blind to themselves
& our superficial predicament—or most likely
a restaurant by the sea.
They’re involved in putting off the day by day
death of themselves for a few more days.
I’m nauseous I must sit down.
What should I do?
Why ask yourself as if another is within you
readying an answer? “We can’t look
in our own eyes | so why
do we think we can look into our own hearts?”
You can with a mirror.
Yoon Yong watches a table of girls
in silence texting | tapping | sharing | making
their presence known to the world
screaming their lungs hoarse to "notice me!"—
…“There are 16 million text messages sent
every minute | 23 billion a day | 8.3 trillion
a year” | according to Google…
Lunch notes on the Selfie (noon-ish)
…A Selfie with Biyang island behind her |
a sea “glittery as jewels—ㅋㅋㅋ.”
She shudders at the squeaky cute voices
: this habitual conformity to “Selfie…ㅋㅋㅋ” |
people queueing to take photos in designated
“PHOTO OPPORTUNITY” areas.
She deletes the photo & vows to take no more.
The Selfie is an odd fad | habitually required of
like a document of proof | a notarization of the done
—a passive showcase of life for others to glance at & nod |
to flick past…pause…with a prod…a moment’s recognition
—it say’s more about them than where they are
—could I get rid of myself as easy as their passivity?
Technology designed for passivity.
To touch the screen is to scroll through time.
“Do you understand what one lonely hand can do?”
I’d use that “lonely hand” to slap the world
& him | even though I know better: I should guide
the world with it— I should know better: (—ctrl + alt + del
ctrl + alt + del ctrl + alt + del ctrl + alt + del—)…
Homesickness in Birmingham (late morning)
…The smell of rice I missed the most.
I walked round Birmingham | my nose
aching for the familiar scent of it
—just 1 bowl of rice to ease the cramps of homesickness.
I cried in public for a bowl of rice.
For the sound of steam ejecting from a rice cooker |
the fresh whiff of it smeared through the house.
The next thing I know | some tubby white guy
is spraying a Gutai on my stomach
too soon & offering to make me a Pot Noodle as if
that might be compensation for Jin Ramen.
I told him it was fine—“I’ll do better
next time.” He never did.
He worked hard all the way to wedding bells
& I too lonely & concerned that if
I don’t take him I’ll end up a spinster…
The light of a place (dawn)
…Whatever place I visit has its own specific light.
Jeju’s light | is an aside | a confirmation of
the usual mask the weather wears
—marginalia of the wind & wet’s intent
that makes the grass still grow in cold
& vines tighten around the trunks of trees.
Seoul’s light is audible | like
the tintinnabulation of church bells—it never ends
& with it comes dead lawns
& fruitless trees through long sub-zero winters.
“Does the sea alter the sky |
or the sky the sea” I remember asking my father
when we came to Jeju
on holiday when I was a kid.
I wish I could remember his reply
—something precise | photo-synthetic.
The turbid smog that smothers Seoul
or even Jeju makes your nose itch.
The world shrinks when the eye
cannot push past its density
—just like I cannot see my future
for the polluted air of my marriage…
Bright & early she goes to Hyeopjae Beach (before dawn)
…The deplorable amount of rubbish
—balled up paper cups with mushy fag butts
& phlegm | a gondae ajeossi in expensive pastel golf clothes
stood outside the 7/11 smoking 1 fag after
another | never finishing a whole one
before dropping it in front of him to smolder & stink |
or dropping it into the dregs of his sweet mix-coffee
—gobs fat globes of spit beside the fags
which pools | enough to wash a bird.
“Welcome to Hyeopjae beach”
dawn on a Saturday in mid-August.
It hasn’t rained enough already
& the humidity makes vegetation look narcoleptic
—small tee-pees of sesame drying on pavements |
which usually starts about the beginning of September
—you know what this means | don’t you?
Regardless…The air salty as fish n’ chips.
I’ll swim in the ocean | just float
like a plastic bag resembling a jelly fish |
think myself granular like shoals of anchovy bursting apart
—I am a singing bowl’s hum | an ornate paper fan
with herons landing in cool water painted on one side
—a parasol released into the wind |
a school boy infatuation | erasing equations |
close as can be to weightless
—I think nothing for a while…
Until…The eschatological battery of Pansori
—a dramatic finale of worlds in the purse of an old lady.
“It’s easier to remember pain
than it is to remember a scent…”
Falun Gong (still rheum in her eyes)
…As she is leaving The Comfort Inn
she stops to watch a snippet from a KBS documentary
: “They would drag us away for thorough medical examinations.
Test our blood | take urine & stool samples| check
our reflexes with a soft wooden mallet
—our eye sight too. If we refused they beat us without clemency
until we drew blood | which they gathered
from the pools that gathered on the linoleum floor…
We knew what it meant: the healthy would have their organs
harvested & distributed to surgeries across China.”
—(From a documentary on Falun Gong practitioners
& the conspiracy that the Chinese government
were imprisoning them to harvest their organs
to be distributed to hospitals across China).
—I went to a demonstration once in Seoul
which provided context for my own problems.
“You can’t spell remedial without media.”
STOP IT! You’re not funny or charming. You’re twee
—“Ugh. I hate being described as twee…”
She steps out into the darkness | the warm
impression of a dream still pulling at her
: what was that turtle ship all about?
Moseulpo dreams (7:38 p.m.)
…From the bus she sees farmers’ bonfires scratch
the imminent dark interior of the island
& the fat plumes cuffed by the sky | set in contrast
to the toxic halo of a town’s crooning neon.
The cemented path she walks runs off into dust |
the street lights colliding with coin tossed dark
NW near Moseulpo | to a guesthouse called Comfort Inn
in a cul-de-sac hugged by a horse-shoe of bamboo
—serves strong coffee | green tea | a full Korean breakfast
: multi-grain rice | dried-pollack soup | kimchi | fried gold bream | duck eggs
in soy sauce | bean sprouts & chamoe melon.
A simple room with no TV | a desk | blinds
—a clean airy space | a book on moving to Jeju | white
& lace with hand woven straw mats | no time
nor decoration | just space. “It’s a rip off— go to a hotel.”
A Garden of lavender | hydrangea | crepe myrtle like
19th C handkerchiefs | a small pond
with carp fat as labourers’ thighs.
Swallows hover in the eaves of her doorway.
The white day over | the cicada’s still drilling the air.
At the 7/11 | people swig cans of Cass beer
& pick at nuts like crows
—watching the sun curl into the sea like burning plastic.
The perpetual motion of tongues & gesture |
youngsters’ | college students with part time jobs &
a first taste of freedom | flirting
with dicks stiff as telegraph poles
& nervous girls in clothes that slogan
nonsense only the initiated understand.
How do swallows decide | what factors are agreed
to line the telegraph cables at this time?
Filling the air with the metronymic shuttling of their throats
to secure each other till everyone goes home
too drunk to endure the end of the world.
Should I decide like an animal | do I not already?
How easily orange flesh splits in her teeth |
impaled on canines ripping it open with a tug.
Turned-on when my skin “smells like Jeju clementine”
Failed to notice me when the brand was discontinued
“like a dog who can’t smell its owner for another dog.”
In the minimalist room | orange halogen | incense
burning | lunar calendar shaped like the moon |
a statue of the monk Wonhyo
carved from pine | trapped in the moment of
drinking stagnant water from the skull he found in a cave
at the foot of Soyosan | unable to make a choice
—unable to see past his future | in this wooden form
“we live life in fast forward but we
have to think about it backwards to understand it.”
Didn’t Kierkegaard say something like that?
Sometimes I think I’d like to be reincarnated as a block of wood
…A glass ceiling | a sun dial in the center
12-3-6 & 9 on the N-E-S & W walls.
To stand in time & let the hours light just my limbs
speaking “time & time again must we
go through this pointless rigmarole?”
I am turning into a turtle ship | the skin
of my back bursts open | my ribs extend & puncture outwards
& sharp bollard-sized arrow heads of enameled wood
grow like a time lapse of tendrils
splitting a dome of soil—Yi Sun-shin tries to warn her
of something | recites a script | protective words | a spell
she gathers from his expressive face— he gets more & more poetic
the more & more agitated he becomes
—now fully metamorphosed into the turtle ship |
her aquiline features a prow | a hull—a vessel of war
—she becomes banked in low tide as a fleet of ships appear
on the horizon speeding toward the coastline…
Memories of the dead while hiking (4:04 p.m.)
…As her friend was dying | grasping desperately
to a silly belief | she put a status on her Kakao Talk
asking everyone she knew to “picture armies
of cancer killing antibiotics in rank & file
at the crenellation of her cancer’s fortress
—each antibiotic soldier | with a magical sword
& shield created with the unalloyed power of
qi gong +energy: a pervasive wobbly field.”
Her doctors said she had 6 months | maybe a year
to live if she kept “to a proper diet & treatment went well.”
She was dead in two weeks—I can’t help but think
what her friends were thinking after the Kakao-call-to-arms?
I always said she was a drama queen: Shakespeare
& Milton in Korean can switch you peculiar.
In a nut shell | her hocus pocus was hope |
a supposition of meaningful action
—as if all she had learned from her BA in Lit
could be filtered through her blood as a cure.
Some Lit-lovers are so full of shit.
“Need to go to the source”—To! The! Source…!