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POETRY

Fun and Friendly Course & Other Poems [+ Web Exclusive]

  • onSeptember 4, 2018
  • Vol.41 Autumn 2018
  • bySeo Hyoin
Behavior Guidelines for the Boy Partisan
2010
126pp.

 

Fun and Friendly Course


Deserting ball
the blades of grass bruised green shake their asses
submissively.
The indifferent balls
go to the hole. Friendlily
the groovy belly of the boss living a nice life
your ball, after success at being parachuted into a top role
the single high and noble drop put out following great effort
an exploding exclamation
The reason I like golf is that the holes are small!
Your groovy joke
your stomach as full as a hill
your palm knocking on the grass
deep and benevolent palm lines
the crown of your head as bereft of hair as an empty sand trap
the grass holds its breath
and the transplanted young pine tree drunk on pesticides
is deep blue
and a groovy afternoon
where instead of your penalty stroke
you grope my right ass cheek nicely
according to the force of the wind.
Nice shot boss!
Is he looking for a hole?

A lady praying mantis with a shady behind passes by
chewing and swallowing the head
in the middle of a fun and friendly course.

 

 

Seoul


The woman became a seamstress in Guro.
The woman’s friend sold her body in Yeongdeungpo.
The person who would become the woman’s husband had a limp.
His mother boiled sweet potatoes and served them up for him.
He dated a woman who was like a hard sweet potato.
The woman’s mother sold noodles by the Cheongyecheon Stream.
The woman’s man disappeared like well-done noodles.
Their daughter became a sewing machine operator.
He made Seongsu Bridge and Cheongdam Bridge.
The woman’s finger was disposed of in Nanji-do landfill.
He limped.
The two of them drank together just once.
The woman moved house like pouring drinks for a packed room.
He got a vasectomy after having two kids.
The woman’s friend left for an island with no bridge to the mainland.
His leg went back to normal.
The woman quit working sewing machines.
The woman’s mother died.
The woman bought houses and sold houses.
Their kid became a luxury bag bought in Apgujeong-dong.
Their kid became a car on Garosu-gil.
His mother sends parcels of sweet potatoes.
The woman, the kids, their friends, do not eat them.
The woman does not eat noodles.
The woman loves apartments with views of the Han River.
He is standing at the window chewing on organic raw sweet potato.
Their kid is jogging in the park below the window.
The woman is on top of Cheongdam Bridge that cuts across the park.
The woman once sealed her friend’s lips with a sewing machine.
The city where they live limped.
From the island without a bridge a letter arrives.
They are illiterates.
The letter is thrown away.
As though something terrible will come to pass
if you leave Seoul
if what happened gets out.

 

 

In Search of Auntie


Auntie went to meet God and couldn’t be contacted for two years. My young cousins got skinny like sheep who’ve had all their woollen fleece shorn. Every day at noon unfamiliar missionaries rang the doorbell.

When Auntie was pregnant with her first child, I once snuck into her skirt. Auntie who was a devout Catholic, just by chance.

Auntie came back, and the missionaries’ doorbell ringing continues. My wife with her belly swelling, moans from the other side of a thin wall. Guess a new life is about to begin, now there’s something I want to ask Auntie.

Auntie only came back when my young cousins were starting elementary school. Her eyes were like those of a girl old before her time. Auntie’s older sisters spat curses. Auntie’s husband burned through cigarettes. The end did not come.

Auntie, where have you been?

My wife with her heavy bump has fallen asleep, and nobody answers. Inside Auntie’s skirt the guy who would become my younger cousin stuck out his face and was staring right at me. I hear the doorbell.

There are days when I want to leave for somewhere. If only someone would guide me to an appointed place, like an agile sheepdog herding sheep. Auntie opened a restaurant and apparently she’s living a good, tenacious life.

 

 

In Search of Preference

 

I choose cigarettes. The design on the box changed. There’s a cat. People began loving the curves of cats. If I had to choose between dogs and cats it would definitely be cats; they don’t bark woof woof, and whisper meow. I take out a smoke. I don’t have a lighter. I’m sick of the zippo I got as a gift. Miaow miaow, I hold the cigarette and twitch my lips. It was when I was seventeen. The military drill teacher we used to call Mad Dog saw the cigarettes in my inside pocket and clobbered me, like tenderizing a live dog to be cooked as summer soup. A lighter fell out of his pocket. The lighter printed with the name of a hostess karaoke bar looks like strands of my mother’s hair. Hair is sickening. Do you prefer Mum or Dad someone asks. I reply dogs, without a doubt. I put a cigarette to my lips. It’s raining, and there’s nowhere indoors to have a smoke. Which do you prefer, rain or snow, someone asks. Everyone knows weather’s a tramp. You can’t forecast the glimmer in their eyes. Smoke skulks off into the rain like a she-cat. Today there’s no time that I like. All humans have the same face, and they say that cigarettes are bad for you. We are harmful to each other, and you and I are rotting away. The cat disappears. The dog barks. There’s nothing I can decide on. At least not when it comes to what I like,

 

 

Geumnamno

 

I spat on the road. I was curious about what your tongue smelt like. The road was stretched out like a dead person’s tongue. I pleaded with my friend. I haggled in the secluded spot behind the department store. I licked like a dog. I came watching her freak out that her makeup might be wiped off. I walked again with my friend, arms around each other’s shoulders. Were we the first customers of the day? That’d would’ve been nice. It was nicer walking underground. It was nicer not knowing what time it was. The shops didn’t go bust and survived to slip and slide. I walked, falling and getting back up again. Coming out of the exit connected to a bookstore the sun that had grown dark rose again and preached. Why’re you living like dogs? Distressed we flicked through reference books. The illustration of the path we had come along spread like cold sores. We placed our steps avoiding wounds. They followed. It was the woman I’d spread my spit on earlier. No, not her. It was my mum, who grabbed me saying, Where are you off to again? No, it was my friend who had furtively let go of my shoulder. By the traffic lights at Geumnamno 4-ga. Something stinky touches the sole of my foot. Was it your spit? The spit stretched out its body towards the government office behind the fountain. In one dash I run up to the rooftop of the regional press office and glare at the government office. The sun sets. I stick out my tongue and tease. You didn’t know, did you, that in the end I’m a dog. You had no woofing clue. No flapping idea. I bit my tongue. Even if scores of people died like dogs, the pain was fleeting.

 

 

[WEB EXCLUSIVE]

 

Yeosu


There was a day I came to love
the city where the woman I love lives.
As I had the thought I could never return
drops began falling, and from a factory soaked with rain
a constant stream of blue smoke
scattered into the air.
People here can’t hang white laundry.
Your face, I couldn’t let it out
of my thoughts. That
was being dirtied because of me.

The sea encircling this city and the body odour it emits
frightened me. The bus coiled around the moist asphalt.
I closed my eyes with the bus’s vibrations
and clung on to my almost woken sleep.
I’ll speak of the end once I arrive.
When I got to the city centre, at the smell from the sea
my eyes opened. I could see a factory in the distance
and beneath it blackened laundry
and where I’d thought the end would be the sea appeared again
and a way appeared and it was Yeosu.

Your face was becoming complete.
I realize I cannot help but love this city.
As this coast that has come to resemble your face
is nowhere in all the world but here

There was a day when I came to love
you with a woeful expression. A frightening love
began.

 

 

 

Mokpo


In the museum there was a Japanese person aiming a gun
and a Joseon person staring at the gun.
The Japanese person had a newborn just beginning to unfold its fingers
and the Korean person had an old hunchbacked mother.
Wind that filled the space between the gun and eyes
shadow of the old building now a fish bar parking lot
menacing dialect
filled-in mud flats

The garden was Japanese style.
The leaves were lined up neatly like library stacks in tight rows.
A silver magnolia appeared, and in an armful of shade
a newborn baby and old villager address each other.
The smell of the previous meal that came from each of their mouths
The small homes lying flat beneath Yudal Mountain like clumsy hikers
Breast milk with a metallic taste and a rice mill
An abandoned textile factory and a bowl of rice gruel

The Japanese person and Korean person are dead and not here.
Getting off at Mokpo Station a certain smell pounces.
Grandma held my little hand went out to the front of the station and bought figs.
I peed anywhere and everywhere.
The wind in Mapaji that scattered urine
The wall of a funeral hall with no one there who isn’t local
In the wind brought in by the sea there is a heavily stooped stench.
These things stretch out their bodies.
I’ve arrived in Mokpo.

The old villager
hugs the baby
and rises slowly.

 

 

Paju


It was only a wrong turn, but a deer got hit. A herd of soldiers appeared, picked up the deer and disappeared. The left side and right side of the road, bent like a timid snake, was lined with young men standing guard, camouflaged into the forest. One of the young men who took the wrong turn was knocked down by an army truck. A herd of people carry the corpse on a stretcher and disappear fast into the forest. There’s no use for a man like a deer. As the deer is cooked there is a delicate scent. The rank stench of fragility lit up the dark surroundings. A huge deer leaps up. It was a delusion. A few men, heads bent, are chewing on deer meat. At the end of the road like a snake there is a guardhouse, and two soldiers with pimples blooming like a dry forest, were aiming their guns into the air facing in opposite directions like the needles of a conifer.

The huge eyes of the deer.
The putrid smell of the man’s corpse. I am

no more than a deserting soldier, and rank like a dead deer. My eyes meet a pimple. Have I really found my way? The road, raises its head like an angry snake. It was a delusion. This is not the way. A deer dashes out before my eyes. 

 

Redeveloping Lunacy

 

You who always begged for 100 won, so you’re still here then.
By the old school, the name of the stationary store changed
and the lady owner is as old and stiff as graduation ceremonies
turned to dust that sits atop the old game machine.
You who always begged for 100 won, so you’re still smiling then.
Drooling like the summer rains, unscrubbed like dust
I see you beside the old school

You who always begged for 100 won
guess you don’t recognize me.
At the school gate where national calisthenics and the pledge of allegiance drooled out with snot
no matter how they used to call you crazy, you begged, just 100 won, just 100 won.
Do you remember, how the boys in the years above jabbed their hands in their pockets
put in 100 won, shook it around as if they were playing a video game and you still drooled like the summer rains?

You who always begged for 100 won, still here
stood in place while flocks of clouds passed by.
The classroom’s loud with envelopes of cash passing hands
but you’re still smiling. Coins jangling laugh
but you without a sound as if to say look who’s crazy now,
ask for just 100 won, just 100 won.

 

 

Stinking Person


In the winter like an o, old shack the husband and wife’d decided to try flipping t, toast. They’d soak their money tender like hunger up in special sauce and eat it, that was the b, big plan for this winter, is what I’m s, saying. Hu hu hu.

No one knew that in the next room an old t, toast had been r, rotting for two days. Hu hu. ‘Cos the special sauce’d grilled the couple’s eyes and ears to a blaze in the nooks n cranny’s of that tiny room. I took them over a few of the u, Ulleungdo squid I couldn’t sell a while back and with the few front teeth they had left they’d munched on them alright. Hu hu hu. There’s n, no one to blame for that whole t, two days of being left to rot.

Must’ve been about three days since they’d stopped making toast, a smell s, stronger and more pungent than ham and cheese on the g, grill, I thought that old granny must be having herself a few bits of hot salted mackerel without tellin’ anyone. But this oldie with the heated mat, hu hu hu, you see ‘cos the el, electric bed mat was nice and hot, she kept it on and with one b, blanket on top, who knew she’d become the o, oldest toast in all th, the world.

The smell of the granny g, grilling spread around the whole neighbourhood, n, no wonder then that the flesh on her bum had burned up red and was making a stink like gone off cuts of meat. From all the holes in her body l, light brown sauce spilled out to beside the blanket. From that rumpled behind the m, musty smell of the sauce spread a stinging stink through the whole neighbourhood. Hu hu hu it was s, so hot it could never be wrapped in any kind of foil or something that s, special toast

From the spot where the toast stall went under that w, winter the smell of old meat spread for a long time. Just like how people grill bread with veggies and ham and cheese to eat when they’re hungry, hu hu hu, the smell of the g, granny’s flesh, sliced as th, though it were no big deal, that time, that smell uh hu hu hu 

 

 

Translated by Sophie Bowman

Author's Profile

Seo Hyoin debuted in 2006 and has authored three poetry collections, including Behavior Guidelines for the Boy Partisan and Yeosu, and two essay collections. He is the recipient of the Kim Su-Young Literary Award and the Cheon Sang-byeong Literary Award. He is editor-in-chief of Littor magazine.