The great bronze kings of the Chosun Dynasty look down from Mount Namsan over the city, valleys of small homes, neatly tiled roofs over ramshackle walls, with small gardens clustered atop amid clothes drying racks and cars careening along narrow streets. The old woman wraps the pink towel around on her scalp like some garish bun and lifts the packages carefully bound balanced on her head and trudges slowly down the cobbled street to Namdaemun market. In It’aewon, the man bent, creaking, lifts the handle of the old cart and begins a slow shuffle up the alley straining against time and gravity. They look down from the mountain at the great South Gate and their hanboks weigh heavier with the fall of night while the Han flows on uncaring.
Once I was six foot four with long blond hair that would have made Fabio jealous, but sadly I woke up. Now in the mirror I am a balding five foot six, middle aged man who wants only to return to the me of my dreams.
A seemingly endless stream of young Thai men pour out of room 314 like so many clowns tumbling out of a miniature Volkswagen Beetle in the center ring. They laugh, chattering, lacking only oversized shoes to complete the image. They stand by the elevator in a contagion of giggles. After half an hour they return, toting cases of Hite and Cass armed and ready for another night dreaming of Bangkok.
The salmon people don’t live here anymore you have moved them up the river, then inland so they no longer need to wander.
The salmon do not swim here anymore you have dammed the rivers to draw out their power and penned the mighty fish where the river first licks the sea.
The eagle doesn’t fly here anymore the great pines that sat for generations below his aerie are now cut into neat supports on which we hang our walls.
Our children do not run here anymore they have moved to the cities, have gone off to wars for fighting is the only job which they are given.
We have no rivers we have no salmon we have no sons, save those who sleep under neat white stones. We look for the eagle a mighty spirit but he, too, has been claimed by the others to decorate their buildings. We have only our spirit to guide us and we know that soon you will claim them too and leave us as you arrived to repeat the sad story.
The empty wine bottle nestling the foot of the postal box wants nothing more that to speak its mind but it is forsworn to silence, and stares into the old Maytag box tucked in the alley next to the dumpster. The bedraggled man sits against the wall and debates the meaning of knowledge with the Buddha lying in a fetal ball on the soggy asphalt.
In a bit less
than an hour
a new exhibit
empty space will
bodies of artist
universes will form
a thousand children
will be born
an old man in
a distant city
will slip away
a contented look
will ask why
but all of that
is not now,
but in a bit