I first heard the whisper of death when I was four,
     sotto-voce, an intimation of my next life, or else a life

unencumbered by some mysterious pattern of a knee
     found tattooed on a starving ghost. It glowed in the dark and 

wore gray socks, like a truant schoolgirl secretly
     photographed in Hongdae while eating a live octopus; or was 

she simply dating a jujube tree? Ah, young people! Trapped 
     inside a cruel way-station between heaven and earth, spiritually

homeless, yearning the dreams that fed their elders.
     When the young girl rises from the table, leaving him behind,

she neglects to retrieve the picture of a flower tree he
     had drawn in exchange for a clean meal, his first in days. 

Snow forms hanok skylines in an interpretation of solitude,
     while a snowman melts in the park, its body becoming transparent.

Let's write a novel! yells the neon sign, with untold glee,
     but the winds writes a table instead, cosmically aloof.

And all the while, that old Seoul kora goes round,
     praying that the sun gets there first, before the moon

stirs the ondol floor’s memory of a wood. So grainy,
     silhouetted against a decisive moment, an intake of breath,

of sympathy, of fathomless regret. A missed bus,
     an unanswered card, or else someone’s too-late thought.

Now! Now I will talk of extinction again in a
     loud voice, while taking a rest at Park 1. Better silence 

than words not yet arrived; better words were unsaid 
    when they said not a word—and yet, according to 

this certified copy of reed, it’s all been said before, whistled
    through the wind's millionth set of molars, forever, and ever.

The universe was thinking of an unending thing.
     And the rain cried happy birthday! And the birds agreed

that the world is delicious when eaten cold or raw,
     and a lily pad can be just as tasty as a floating word. 

A flower in yesterday's sky has no flavour at all, and a soul, 
     while fragrant without the body, wouldn't have existed.

Meanwhile, our group was passing through Seongeup village
    and we were laughing gently at the way goats walk. Obviously,

we were born in the 1970s. Had we been older, maybe
     we’d know what it might feel like to be thirty years old

and a goat. But I mistook the flower's silence for
     tranquility, while its petals fanned the flames of hell.

Imjingang sax scene

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

참새 다방 [Sparrow dabang]

간밤에 나는 노래방에서 노래하는 이상을 보았다
     마치 작은 참새 한마리가 노래하듯
탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕 그건
     그 참새가 노래했던 아주 슬픈 소곡 
그 말고는 누구도 그 노랫말을 이해할 수 없는 그런 노래
     하지만 그렇다고 그가 노래를 멈출거라고 생각하지는 않는다-절대!
한옥의 지붕위에서, 아직도 이상의 노랫소리가 들린다
     이렇게 탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕
     하루 온종일, 죽음같은 침묵속에서, 한마리 참새처럼.

그리고 나서 나는 피씨방에서 스타크래프트를 하는 이상을 보았다
     완전히 깨지고서, 스크린을 향해 고함을 지른다, 피씨방은
십대들의 담배연기로 묵직하고 키보드에는 
     포도주스가 끈적끈적하게 묻어있다(이런다고 이상을 멈출 수 
있을 거라고 생각하는가? 절대!  병력도 에너지도  너무 빨리 
     소모되어 버려서 상대편을  도저히 이길 수 없다
탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕
     밤새도록 지친  키보드 위에서,

     네트워크로 연결된 침묵속에서, 한 무리의 참새떼처럼.

그리고 나서(당신이 이걸 믿을 수 있다면) 나는 이상이
     찜질방에서 땀을 쫘악 빼는 것을 보았다, 머리카락은
참새 대가리의 깃털 같았는데, 젖은 머리가 
     쭈뼛 솟아있는 것이, 꼭 당신이 상상할 수 있는 제일 작은 웅덩이에서
물을 마시는 한마리 참새같았다. 젖은 깃털이 마치 
     그를  붙잡아 둘 수 있을 것처럼.  믿지 마시길! 이상은, 흠뻑 젖은채
찜질방의 욕탕에 몇 시간이고 계속 앉아 있는데,
     그의 작은 심장은 마치 하늘을 날아 다니는 것처럼 달린다 
     탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕.

오늘밤 나는 어느 다방의 한 구석에 조용히 앉아
     이상과 그리고 그가 이 새로운 멀티방에 대한 열광을
어떻게 생각할지를 생각한다. 아마도 그는 마음에 들어 했을 것이다,
     찾아보면 아마도 작은 참새 한마리를 위한 곳이
돈 내는만큼 사용할 수 있는 멀티방 안에 있을지도 모른다, 작은 공간
     탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕
원한다면 하루 종일 이라도, 만약 그게 당신이 원하는 것이라면
     만약 그게 당신을 행복하게 해 준다면 말이다.  정말 그건 

     괜찮은 생각이지 않은가? 이상을 다시 상상해보는 멋진 방법이지 않은가?

그리고 내일이면 나는 어느 디비디방에 들어 앉아 있을 것이다, 
     이상의 일대기를 그린 영화를 보면서. 나는 참새를 단 한마리도 
 보지 않을 것이다, 나는 어둠속 나무 위에서 지저귀는 
     단 한마리 참새의 소리도 듣지 않을 것이다. 그걸 모르겠는가? 
어둠속에서 재잘대는 참새의 소리를 믿지 않는가? 
     신경쓰지 마시길! 내가 당신에게 상기시켜 줄 수 있으니까,
그 소리는 꼭 탕 탕 탁타 탁타 특 특 특 특 탕,
     밤새도록, 참새다방의 한쪽 구석에서 들려오는,

     그리고 그건 세상에서 가장 아름다우면서 외로운 소리이다.

Sparrow dabang (참새 다방)

last night i saw yi sang singing in a noraebang
     sounding just like a little sparrow does going
tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang it was
     such a sad little song that the sparrow sang
the kind that nobody else knew the words to
     but don't think that stopped him - no way!
i can hear yi sang  still, on the hanok roof
     going tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang

     all day long, in dead silence, like a sparrow. 

then i saw yi sang playing starcraft in a pc bang
     losing badly, screaming at the screen, the air
heavy with teenage smoke and his keyboard
     sticky with grape soda (do you think that stopped
yi sang? never! losing men and energy way too
     fast to ever keep up with his competitors going
tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang on
     their worn-out keyboards all night long,

     in networked silence, like a flock of sparrows. 

then (if you can believe this) i saw yi sang
     soaking himself in a jjimjilbang, his hair like
feathers on the head of a sparrow, spiky and
     wet, like a sparrow drinking from the smallest
puddle you can imagine. as if wet feathers could
     ever hold him back! don't believe it! yi sang, wet,
sitting in a pool in the jjimjilbang for hours on end,
     his little heart racing as if he was flying through

     air going tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang. 

tonight i'm sitting quietly in a corner of a dabang
     thinking of yi sang and what he would have made
of the new multibang craze. maybe he would have
     liked it, maybe there's a place for a little sparrow
inside a pay-as-you-go multitang, a little space
     that goes tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang
all day long if you want, if that's what you want,
     if that's what makes you happy. don't you think

     it's a nice idea? a nice way to re-imagine yi sang? 

& tomorrow i'll be sitting in a dvd bang, watching
     a movie based on the life of yi sang. i won't see
a single sparrow, i won't even hear the sound
     a sparrow makes in a tree in the dark. don't you
know? don't you believe in the sound a sparrow
     makes in the dark? never mind, i can remind you,
it sounds like tang tang tacka tacka tk tk tk tk tang,
     all night long, in a corner of the sparrow dabang,

     and it's the most beautiful, lonely sound in the world.

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!


sing your heart out
invisible bird!


just me and the dragonflies