His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.
The great bronze kings
of the Chosun Dynasty
look down from Mount Namsan
over the city, valleys
of small homes, neatly
tiled roofs over
with small gardens
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
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
with the fall of night
while the Han
flows on uncaring.
I thought I heard
a woman singing
somewhere in the distance,
an ethereal song whose melody
floated over me, dropping
momentarily into my consciousness
then as quickly flitting away.
I walked off
the carefully tended path
stepped into the clutching brush,
the smell of Juniper
filled the air.
Pushing through a thicket
I thought I saw a woman
retreating into the trees
but the melody lingered
and I sat and listened
never seeing the singer
only hearing the song.
I am reasonably certain, he said,
that they are weaving a rug
in the next room, a large one,
I imagine, or at least a wall tapestry.
It should be a medieval scene, dogs,
a knight or gentleman, a child or two,
and in the center a beautiful woman.
Actually, if they are weaving it for me,
I don’t care about the dogs, knights
or children, as long as she is beautiful.
Until they are done, I will just dream
of what they are doing for me
in the dark room at the end of the hall.
The thing I don’t get, he said,
is why whenever I put in a call
to heaven a male voice answers,
and says he will transfer me.
Usually the wait time is too long
but occasionally a woman will answer
and tell me the Queen
of Queens, blessed is she, is busy
but she knows my wishes and those
with enough merit will
be granted in due course.
She does, always, thank me for calling.
Spring has arrived, however begrudgingly,
and the young woman pushes
the older woman’s wheelchair
along the paths of the great park.
Neither speaks, but each knows
this could be the last time they do this.
That shared knowledge paints
each flower in a more vibrant hue,
each fallen petal is quickly
but individually mourned for,
its beauty draining back into the soil.
The older woman struggles hard
to fully capture each view for she
knows that it is possible
that it will have to last her an eternity.
in the bookstore cafe
her head covered
by a linen kerchief
bobby pinned to the
mass of walnut curls.
She cradles the cup
of cooling coffee
and stares down
at the slim book
of Amichai, yielding
to the Hebrew letters
that seem to dance
across the page.
I sit at the adjoining table
with my used
copy of Bialik, translated.
I glance at her
“I’ll miss him”
with a nod to Amichai
then “where are you from?”
in her seat, legs
crossing, pulling back
my shoulder at
the slowly spinning fan,
then at the book.
I look for her eyes
but they dance away,
my hands clasp
fingers drum on the table.
the walls and wire,
from which so few of us ever
manage to escape.”