The Air Club & Other Poems
- onSeptember 4, 2018
- Vol.41 Autumn 2018
- bySong Kyung-dong
- I’m Not a Korean
The Air Club
When Kim Jin-suk broke the Guinness record with his hundreds of days of a high-altitude sit-in on crane number 85 in Busan’s YeongdoHanjin Heavy Industries, Park Jeom-gyu, who has many good ideas, suggested creating a “High Altitude Club.” His plan was that they should carefully select just one hundred people who, unable to live on level ground, had gone climbing up to a high altitude.
During the irregular workers’ struggle at Kiryung Electronics, I climbed up onto a mechanical digger, so I naturally assumed I would be a member, but I was excluded. When I protested that I had even fallen off while demonstrating and been taken to a hospital, I was told that I had only gone less than 5 meters up and that it was considered a travesty for a “High Altitude Club.” The fellow who climbed the highest was a temporary worker in Hyundai Hysco who had gone up 130 meters. If I was dissatisfied, I could organize a “Low Altitude Club.”
The reason for failing another candidate was really ridiculous. He had been hanging from the railings of a Han River bridge as an irregular at Bupyeong GM-Daewoo, then jumped into the river. “Hey, I covered more than 30 meters, so why exclude me?” The answer was a masterpiece: that had merely been empty air, not a high altitude. If he was dissatisfied, he could organize a separate “Air Club,” and everyone sniggered.
Thus, times that could not be considered without tears of blood came together to create a club of beautiful people that had never been able to exist on earth before.
The Day I Learned a Lesson
After I fell from a mechanical digger
I crawled back up, saying I wasn’t going to the hospital,
and spent seven hours in the tent,
a piece of wood wrapped in a handkerchief between my teeth.
Detectives from the information division came running belatedly,
worried they might lose their prey,
and remained lingering round the digger.
At midnight, preceded and followed by squad cars,
I was taken to a hospital in secret. My heel bone
was broken in bits like a biscuit.
It was so swollen they said they could not operate,
just gave me a painkiller, then I had to endure a whole day.
I was sorrier still at not having been able to continue the sit-in to the end.
It hurt more than I could endure,
but they said I had done my best.
Unable to sacrifice a school record or anything like other people
belatedly I had at least sacrificed one foot
and I promised that once I got out
I would be properly active.
But the goddam worst was still to come,
hiding black inside my body.
As part of the sit-in protest I had been fasting on and off
and now, for the first time in 20 days
the order came for me to empty my bowels
so I struggled onto my wheelchair alone and tried several times
but my stool, hard as a cannonball, would not come out
and my blood-gorged legs ached as if the stitches would snap.
Then, once opened up, like a stake pulled from the ground,
my behind, torn open, refused to close.
Oh, that struggle was a first for me,
that night spent writhing all alone, nose running, tears flowing.
For the first time
I came to learn what action is.
Real action is not done with the mouth
but with the behind,
it’s not done by a noble soul
it’s done by an aching, messy body.
As my anus was torn, that’s what I learned.