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, grey carpet 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. Squeals. Drums. Discarded cloths, blood-stained. 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. Shoulder arms.
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. Prisoners, good deeds and friendships betrayed. The studios will be eating out of our hands. Privately, 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. Here, 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; ahead, cartwheels of conversation, opening.
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.