Imagine a city with no streets
but networks of amputated limbs.
An officious city of criminal investigations
and inquests whose soul is a square of cheap,
and a water dispenser.
The tinkle of pachinko,
the sudden sirens of attack.
Those women with the hand bills,
so stubborn and intent upon their mission,
invading the bodyspace of the factory workers like an influenza.
Sheets of steel carried by a dozen men at a time
towards the railhead.
Rain in bursts of noise upon their heads.
Somewhere there is a map of the city's improvements
but no one I speak with has seen it.
Wheelchair-bound ladies protest at
the new constructions rising up around them
in terrifying spirals.
No-one is allowed to see them.
Behind their riot shields,
the policemen are only boys.
Some of them wear white sneakers,
as if they have been called in from basketball practice.
Sleeping street people
curled up like scraps of paper
on the subway stairs,
trusting that the spirits will protect
their small change,
their street salaries.
Mandarin peels in the gutters.
Sewer smells that hit the face like a nervous pigeon,
the frightful proximity of disease.
A hollow city,
stained with sad skirmishes
and pickled fistfights.
Gouged-out eyes that speak.
Tables hoarded under orange shelters.
Old men dancing in parks for citizens,
while other citizens peer out at the sky
like lost kittens in bamboo.
News of another separatist attack filters through
stale cups of coffee,
cigarette butts neatly stacked like bullets.
A simulated odyssey through virtual historical battles
gains popularity in the parlours.
No one speaks of it;
these things require no advertisements.
Beware the reconstituted cutlets of crumbed meat:
that way annihilation lies.
Pull back the tarpaulin to reveal today's wares—
a rack of twisted and burnt squid,
dried suckers and flattened jerky.
Remove hospital identification barcode.
City of burnt grass and black limousines.
City of nudes and spider lilies,
where the grass stands up even though it is on fire,
whistling a harvest tune.
By the railway lines,
entropy rules: jagged weeds
and mystery melons scramble for space,
riddling the rails,
disguising the sleepers with their fantastic tendrils.
Like a smoker's signal,
brave and futile.
Trains slice these ribbons into tendons,
timetabling history, scattering seeds,
accelerating some abstract chaos.
Trampled soccer balls like snakeskin or leather on the shining road.
Dressed as inspectors,
we climb the stainless steel stairs,
pass the plastic clinic and the coffee mall,
then enter the machine room.
Here, the rumble of traffic is merely a shiver in your bowels,
barely shaking the keys.
Predicting story arcs is what it's all about.
good deeds and friendships betrayed.
The studios will be eating out of our hands.
we model alternate scenarios:
the prisoner escapes;
the can of boiled beef falls from the adjutant's hand;
a friendship is consummated in a bloody latrine scene.
the streets are viewed as if through
the screenshots of an amateur photographer:
the perspectives slightly skewed,
casting one's eye off balance.
Jets scramble overhead, but no one notices.
The flags of a thousand federations
burst into the blue sky,
unfurling like false spring!
The sound of trickling water consumes
bus drivers and cart pullers alike.
Insanity is okay,
although mistakes are sometimes made.
Usually, these thoughts disappear.
Slowly, a city comes to know itself by
the bend of a river,
the argument of a steel canal.
Behind us, mountains;
cartwheels of conversation,
the appositeness of the phrase getting off at redfern
struck our roving correspondent with all the force of
teutonic bombs as the limousine bus pulled into that
wind-blasted car-park near the old imjingang station
last stop before a river crossing (that broken bridge
the one that used to go to chosŏn the other mystical
fatherland (that got waylaid by arirang & sŏn'gun
that number one hit with a bullet known as chuch'e
picture then the scene complete with invisible sax as
the tourists wandered around the wrecked locomotives
strolling nonchalantly beside ponds filled with lilies
& over everything piped or were they real sax sounds
appearing as if from nowhere or else an ancestor park
the sax player herself
(the old ajumma
oh broken world