i remember 제주도

for Choi Sung Hee

i remember jeju-do: that living eye,
a candy-coloured sky that was remote-
controlled by halla-san, or lord muck,
a lady mountain gathering her skirts
around her as a cloud sucks up rain. 

i remember 제주 4·3 사건, although we
were not there, bullets like a maze,
weeping in secluded lanes, wounds as
big as tangerines & the green moulds 
all over the dead (the reds, the red

i remember gangjeong peace zone, cute
as a postcard, & its anti-nuke murals
(white wall with that painted-on tree 
whose outline mirrored that of a real
tree (its leaves greener than my hopes

i remember kang dong kyun, the mayor,
was arrested for protesting too much - 
and for eating too little in his cell,
his hunger strike embarrassing some,
while electrifying the people's media 

i remember "Touch not one flower, not 
one stone!", a great mantra for daily
living, just like mayor kang's letters,
each beginning with the line: dear 
mr. noam chomsky! dear mr. chomsky!

i remember seogwipo, quiet six pm city 
on the island's south side, the flowers
in boxes lining the steep path down to
the marina, & the harbour, & the wooden
restaurant where the mosquitoes ate us

i remember u-do, tiny postage stamp of
an island, where the haenyo plied their 
trade, sleek as seals in black diving
suits, surfacing with buckets full of 
sea anemones & sea's salt-water tears

but i forgot you, funny dol hareubang, 
like manwha characters playing dead,
frozen into stone on the mountainside. 
there'll be no memorial service for you
who can't remember, let alone regret.

AN CAT DUBH

if they airbrushed my face could i be a rocket
     or could i somehow perhaps evolve into a star
a sort of rock star cold and dead long abandoned 
     somewhere out in space (or else temple bar
or maybe blackpool (uk playing an cat dubh with 
     just a hint of irony in my personal remediation pod
what noisy cats are we pipes up mike (oldfield 
     for some reason, chiming with that inane hankie 
dance he always does (but god bless him and god 
     bless this black velvet underground and her peoples 
i'm from a band they used to call U2 we're not from derry
     we're from dubh linn blackpool as you call it there it's
a dead star now the shape and size of a human head 
     (no prizes for guessing whose and this is a song about
a black cat that we may very well have stolen off charles 
     manson who himself had flogged it from the beatles 
(to whom we still haven't actually got around to (like um

        stealing it back? 

                                        she-kaaaaat


One Hundred and Five Candles

for Mary Fitzgerald Unthank nee Hurley
8 November 1905 - 16 September 2010


They say the first one is invis­i­ble,
 you only feel its heat. It’s shin­ing
 some­where out in space — or is it
 the womb — where love is a can­dle
 in the dark, cre­ated by a spark of
 some­thing felt though never seen.
 The next one, then, is num­ber two
 but we’ll call it one so that you can
 light it again, a red can­dle per­haps
 or a candy-twist pink. By this time

 you grasp & grab at con­scious­ness,
 at these appari­tions that re-appear,
 reg­u­larly, and each time in greater
 num­bers: three, four, five candles. 
 The sym­me­try of six demands your
 grudg­ing respect, which is fur­ther
 whet by num­ber seven, or heaven.
 Nine revolv­ing bod­ies in a child’s
 plan­e­tar­ium, then the ten’s maudlin
 return to its begin­ning: a one & a
 
 zero, together, on the same cake.
 Com­pared to this, eleven’s a breeze.
 By now, you’ve grasped the basic
 terms of the deal: some­one lights
 the can­dles, then you just sit back,
 pre­tend­ing to count stars. Twelve
 can­dles brings you a dozen roses
 which you’re too young to blow out.
 From thir­teen onwards it’s all a blur.
 The teenage can­dles, a sound­track
 
 fea­tur­ing a style of music no one
 over the age of eigh­teen even hears.
 Nineteen’s similar to the invis­i­ble
 one we touched on at the start, only
 warmer, and full of beer. Twenty
 brings us back to ten, which is to say
 the decade, ready-made. By this stage
 you view the whole can­dle thing with
 unaf­fected dis­dain, although you still
 pro­tect your own like a bird its brood
 
 every time what you know will come
 comes around. To move on to candles 
 in their thir­ties is to doc­u­ment a series
 of increas­ingly intel­li­gent — no, bril­liant
 cru­sades against the light­ing of those
 can­dles which are yet to come. When
 you think of light­ing forty can­dles, by
 your­self, in a dark room alone, a weird
 kind of uneasi­ness comes over you.
 Thence­forth, every year for at least a
 
 decade, you light those can­dles with
 the minia­ture flame thrower some­one
 once gave you as a present. For the
 bar­be­cue, you remem­ber. The can­dles,
 dipped in kerosene, sing in delight as
 you make your big light-sabre sweep.
 From sixty onwards you expe­ri­ence
 what it’s like to be caught inside some
 cheer­ful wax­work mon­tage, sixty two
 and three, espe­cially, arous­ing your
 
 long-forgotten enthu­si­asm for years
 spent set­ting stuff on fire. Seventies?
 Don’t speak of the sev­en­ties can­dles, you
 don’t want to hear. The late sev­en­ties,
 though — there’s a film, right there, in
 sev­enty eight or sev­enty nine candles. 
 The golden glow of eighty can­dles, set
 on fire, burn­ing right through the night.
 The triple zero birth­day cake, a dou­ble
 one next to another big zero. You alone
 
 get it: the invis­i­ble can­dle, stage left,
 wear­ing a hat that’s com­pletely green. 
 The six­ties mon­tage reap­pears right at
 the end of the eighty-ninth, spoil­ing an
 oth­er­wise flaw­less run of candle-lighting
 cer­e­monies that some­one should have
 filmed, had the means to do so existed
 at the time. Ninety and ninety one, to
 their credit, pro­ceed with­out a hitch. 
 Then you hit ninety two & you notice
 
 that some­one else lights the ghastly
 things now, and you don’t even mind,
 par­tic­u­larly. You review the wis­dom of
 this while sit­ting com­fort­ably on ninety
 seven, & the ninety eighth doesn’t hurt
 a bit. You occupy your ninety ninth like
 a remote eagle its eyrie, watching over 
 the abstract world two miles below you.
 When you hit the big igni­tion switch that 
 will set in motion a slow-combustion of
 
 one hundred mile-high candles you’re
 already in heaven. The immen­sity of that 
 agri­cul­tural slog over mid-on seems so
 easy that you’re light­ing the next one as 
 we speak, dis­patching the following three 
 with ease, spank­ing a radi­ant thrill of love
 into each of those one hun­dred & four
 can­dles, etch­ing their flames into space
 & then set­tling again on your still-warm
 eyrie, to sur­vey an earth par­secs below.
 
 The can­dles, clearly, will not be denied
 their even­tual vic­tory for much longer.
 You, for your part, feel no fear. Softly,
 all in one moment, you realise some­one
 has blown the hun­dred & fifth one out.
 
 

16 September 2010
DEN HAAG

(revised 11 February 2011
KARLSKRONA)

Turtles for Myron Lysenko

the turtle dips
its right foot
into the sea

*

the left foot of the turtle
is a parking lot now

*

hyang il-am
on the turtle’s back
sutras for Buddha

*

turtle hexagon
my head also has five sides

*

who turns off the loudspeaker monk at night?

*

falling camellia leaf
a one thousand won bill
on my nose

*

‘godness’ of mercy
Amitabha Buddha
sits on her crown

*

turtles are related to many things

*

a poem made of a thousand turtles

*

the future is sea mist
i hope for a clear day

*

bballi bballi
says the sodok-cha
in a hurry to disappear

*

Buddha sneezes steam
to ward off influenza

*

‘bless you’
blinks the neon sign

*

i leave my bags at the inn
carrying light wishes
to Buddha

*

who needs a temple stay when everything is Buddha?

*

every day i grow old again

*

the sun will be there – there!
tomorrow

*

sing your heart out
invisible bird!

*

just me and the dragonflies

Written at Hyang Il-am, Yeosu, Republic of Korea.