IF EINSTEIN WAS

If Einstein was correct
relatively speaking,
the arrow of time,
rusted in place, indomitable,
can be freed, torn
from its mooring
and set adrift
defying its natural
inclination.  

                        As the lights
of Seoul were engulfed
by a blanket of clouds
which in turn ebbed,
revealing a universe
spread out, and I settled
slowly into sleep,
Thursday faded into
dreams.

                    First sun sliced
through the interstices
of the shades as fog dissipated
from San Francisco Bay.
Like Jonah, having
atoned, I crawled
from the belly
of a great beast,
metallic Sheol, and stepped
into a Ninevah of glass
and steel, rubbing
eyes, rejecting day.
Stumbling the corridors
and down a ramp
I slid into my seat.
As gravity was again
defied, Thursday
unfolded, inviting but
having learned nothing
I faded into dreams.

SEOUL NIGHTS

they wander

            up and down

                        cluttered streets

    alleys

            under blazing signs

                        OP.10 Nightclub

      Club Alaska

               Hesed Disco

streets taped

            with posters

                        Dancoh Discotheque

               young men flicking

                                    business cards

   cardboard confetti

                        Venturi “Coffee and Whiskey”

              neon flashing Bulgari Nigh Club

            young women

                        almost girls

                                    tight pants

              shorter skirts

                        dreaming husbands

                                    Moody Blues Rock and Country

     Radio Gaga

                           young men dreaming

            young men’s’ dreams

                                    blaring speakers

               drowning horns

                        Donna Summers wanna be’s

            kimchi and Kentucky Mash

    business men dreaming

                                    young men’s’ dreams

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.

KANGNAM STYLE

The kimchi and pickles
are presented in neat
Celadon dishes carefully
arranged on the small table.
The meat sizzles
on the iron dome
resting above the bucket
of orange hot coals
set into the table
littered with half empty
and fully drained bottles
of Hite beer and
thimble glasses of Soju.
The waitress snips the meat
from the ribs
and replenishes the lettuce,
the pickled onion, bean paste,
as our voices slowly rise
above the din
of beer and whiskey
until we drown it
in a bowl of duck noodle soup
and stumble out
onto the streets of Kangnam
for the slow journey
back to the hotel.

SEOUL

Thursday night, and
Planet Hollywood in Seoul
is dead, more smiling
staff than diners,
the bar a well polished
wasteland, no lines
in the gift shop,
the Penguin mask
staring out over
the almost empty
dining room.
As we leave, having
consumed half a bottle
of soju between us
to the blare
of the endless videos,
they thank us and bow,
neatly arrayed in a row.
I can write my name
in Hangul and
smile in Korean.

CRADLING NIGHT

Last night the moon hid
daring the stars
to give chase
across the void
but they preferred
their slow procession.
I looked long,
hard for her
but she was master
of this game.
I looked for her
behind the neon signs
blazing from
countless buildings
electric grave stones
marking the resting place
of peace on a Seoul night.
I chased her shadow
behind the giant
bowling pin atop
the bus terminal
but she was fast
this moon, gone
before I could get her.
I asked Orion
if he had seen her
but he responded in Hangul
“I would not know
I seek my mother, the dawn
under the watchful eye
of my seven daughters.
Cassiopeia turned away
cradling Andromeda,
a mother she whispered
has no time for games.
I searched on
seeking from her
only a spell
to cast out my beloved
even now looking
at the cresting sun
half a world away.
Last night the moon hid
daring the stars
to give chase
while Seoul
and slowly I
slip into sleep.

CHONGDONG MARKET

I

Little old woman
sits cross legged
on a faded cushion.
She nods as we enter
and touch the ancient chest.
She rocks slowly in place,
older than the ancient
stone carving
guarding her doorway.

 

II

In the narrow, dingy hall
giant pots nestle against
stone carvings.
A fat Buddha smiles
at a rice paper covered screen.

 

III

Celandon vase
carefully cast and carved
sits on a small shelf
amid Hyundai head gaskets.

 

IV

“Cast iron tea pot,
very old, very old
top quality, for you
only 350,000 won –
you pay cash
325,000.”