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.