A Poem About Seoul


I want to write a poem about Seoul.
How my
breath catches
and sticks there in my chest,
even now,
when the train, birthed from dark tunnel
crossing the Han.
Eyes swallowing the river,
then riveted to the lines
where sky meets steel,
and steel stages
approximately 10 million stories.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
at night
geometry, columns and constellations,
Taillights crowded, edging,
energy of 불금 revelry
seeping up from street arteries
that bleed orange and pink possibility
into a thirsty horizon.
Twilight hushes gently
over the city dressed in evening.

I want to write a poem about Seoul
to explain
how the chain of subway cars,
chimerical iridescent caterpillar,
glides along the track
city spirit silent only from afar,
disappears into a building forest,
and yellow headlights draw my gaze,
slithering quickly along the river bank.
I see it all across the Han,

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Lighted boxes,
life stacked thirty stories high,
night-shrouded, upright, rectangle giants,
freckled with illuminated windows
to other worlds.
Cruising lifted expressways
in a world of sky
halfway up twenty stories,
lines, shapes, strings, shadows,
points, stars, satellites,
and so many colors,
I miss my exit because I am enthralled.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
sewer reek,
and trash piles barely contained.
I am intoxicated by clashing aromas,
exhaust, human bodies, and sizzling street food.
I crane my neck at the crosswalk crush
to take in
gashes of light and motion
gaping between city skyline cracks,
and the moon’s patient fingernail
dangling above it all.

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Logos everywhere
sheet cakes of luminous advertising
assault from every angle
in the night-city, twinkling
green, blue, yellow, orange,
pink, purple, red, white,
reflected, in the ripples of the Han.
Life-light cranked to maximum,
shimmers before my dizzy pupils,
dilated to catch every last drop of this view
before I’m gone to lose it
and to feel the loss
like a rock in my stomach,
sinking down,
down to the bottom of the Han.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
but it’s
way too personal, and anonymous.
Is this duel nature the city’s, or mine?
Atoms of humanity packed tight,
particles thick as peanut butter,
made repulsive.
The girl breathing my air,
hip wedged against me,
pressed so close
I could kiss her on the subway
stares, eyes carefully blank,
past my face.
Irony in metal and angles;
inorganic skeletons
of half-built structures,
sigh of romance and coax
memory and anticipation.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
absurd reality.
The street vomit stains
and homeless grandmas
searching hunchbacked under
unfathomable burdens
of Han and precariously stacked cardboard,
accumulation of just one day
in a throwaway modernity.
Revulsion and rapture
together in my chest swell,
a wave and an undertow,
squeezing heavy drops of water
from surprised eyelashes.
Complex reaction to a place
mine alone to reconcile.

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Rocky Bukhansan
standing stately at sentinel post.
The heart of a country
immaculately twinkles afar off
in time with the ripples of the Han,
one final, perfect scene.
A Korean flag
red, white, blue, and black,
welcomes spent legs
to summit of sky and stone,
whereupon you cannot hear
the city heartbeat,
over the hush, hush, hush of the wind.