SEOUL: A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Namdaeman is a ghetto of shops
and stalls, where men squat
cupping cigarettes and gesture,
their hands grasping stacks of bills,
rocking on their heels until they
leap up to a patron, asking this price
or that, assessing the will
of the buyer by the thickness
of his or her wallet. An old woman
sits on her pack frame, gumming
kimchi from a small metal bowl,
as two wheeled pack mules
sputter and weave by, casting
faint blue clouds. Here, where
the alley narrows so that a bicycle
cannot find passage unless
all standing about inhale, where
trays of flounder and eels lie
amid slowly melting ice,
where pigs heads, boiled, stare
at the sky in fascination,
as their cawls lie in a box below.
Here a man sits and grinds dried peppers,
his neighbor throwing rotting leaves
of lettuce to the ground
and arranging the trays
of fungi and ginseng. Half
of this city walks slowly by, staring
at leather jackets, jeans, sweaters
and brass pots, Celadon and a sea
of shoes crying for their mates
in the frottage of commerce.

On the street of brides,
a wide avenue of transfixed
cars and buses, a cacophony
of horns, school girls stare
into a sea of windows
and imagine themselves
in the gowns of lace and beads,
their faces the porcelain
of the dolls of their childhood,
fearing the rupture of their youth.

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