Lou von Salomé

“Lou believed that the intimate experiences are impossible to put into words, but we should not devalue or underestimate their importance because we do not speak of them.”
– Julia Vickers, in “A Biography of the Woman Who Inspired Freud, Nietzsche and Rilke” –

Nietzsche and Rilke left the masterpieces of ideas and writings behind;
Lou von Salomé lived the masterpiece.


Blue Dot came to me

He was the small wimpy one. Definitely not the alpha. And I loved that. I didn’t have a chance to choose my puppy from the breeder. This golden doodle breed was very popular due to its hypoallergenic character, so the breeder notified me which one I would get.

I filled the adoption paper and deposited the money. Several days later, I knew the Blue Dot became my pup. And he was coming from Alabama all the way up to Ithaca, New York. I sent him 2 weeks puppy prep in the breeder to prepare him for the long air travel.

At the end of the October 2014, I went to the cargo office of Syracuse Airport and waited that my pup arrived. I could hear him even before I met him. The 10 weeks old puppy barked in his crate so seriously that the airport cargo personnel wanted me to take him with me as soon as the paperwork was done.

Our first official meeting was on the small patch of grass at the side of the parking lot at the airport. I took him out and gave him water. He didn’t drink or pee, he just kept tapping my shoulder with his small front paws as if he was about to say something. Probably he meant, ‘why did you put me on that plane? It was awful and it took so long.’

During the one hour drive back to Ithaca, he slept sound in the crate by my side. Since then, he became the closest companion of mine. I am so glad that the breeder chose the Blue Dot for me because he is the only one that has the gold color ears among his all white siblings. One more word added at the birth to distinguish newborn puppies, “Dot”, already meant that he is the special one.

His name is Snoopy.


I took the hand of a man I mistook for my dad. I walked half a block beside him. My top of the head was about at his waistline, and my small hand disappeared in his large hand. A wrong feeling crawled over me and looked up, and he wasn’t my dad. A stranger who had similar clothes. Instantly, I was terrified and frantically looked around. My dad was just a little behind, grinning at me who hopped a few steps ahead and took the hand of a wrong man. I was embarrassed for the brief horror that I had thought I had lost my father. How could he lose me? I knew it couldn’t happen. Even though I was six years old at that time, I knew it. But as I grew, I did start to lose him. My indifference toward my father grew from that of a little girl as I became a woman.

If I think back over my childhood, I always remember my dad associated with some sort of sounds, even though he didn’t talk much. To amuse his little daughter, he used to pick up a thick leaf of a garden plant, roll it up, put it between his lips, and make sounds like a simple song. He played harmonica in the leisurely evenings, sitting on a big rock or a step. I saw his head and shoulders swaying with the rhythm he was playing through the garden door from our living room. He played many many songs I didn’t know and still don’t know. But I can hear those melodies if I recall those times as warm moist hands stroked my cheeks. I found that the tune of the harmonica made the soul tender, which I often resisted at that time, and thought the instrument suited only for a soldier in the lone nights at an army base.

As a child, I had lots of free time. I used to look through the album jackets of his LP music collection. They always looked funny and outdated to me. The women singers’ faces were flat and white, and their clothes looked cheesy. But I lay down on my belly and looked through them one by one, again and again, like peeking at something for grown-ups. Sometimes, my dad asked me to put an LP disc on the turntable. Whenever I put the needle on the silky black vinyl track, it made a loud noise like zipping a rusty zipper of a giant. But rarely, when I managed to land the needle barely making any noise, I was very proud of myself.

He also played the piano. My brother and I hurled to the piano lesson for years, but the person who truly enjoyed playing was my dad. He never told us how he learned to play. But he played well any music. It was unusual that a man played the piano who grew up with the Korean War and had such a serious job. He must have been the first man who worked to support the family in his bloodline for a few thousand years. Before the Japanese colonization, the aristocrat class didn’t have to work. All they did was studying, reading, writing, discussing with contemporaries for the intellectual stimulation, hunting, enjoying music and art, and hustling around among several wives depending on their status and wealth. What they only worked was keeping their position through politics. But when the history shifted fast in the early 1900s, the old value became not valid, and the poor living condition hauled the incompetent men to the competitive work market to feed themselves and their family. In this transitional period, my grandfather’s parents were still wealthy and revered. So my grandfather was sent to Tokyo to study new things and culture. But what he did was took a second wife, a Japanese woman, and enjoyed living as his ancestors. My grandmother, maybe in her early 20s, took the ship to Japan and dragged her husband to Korea. That was how my dad and I could exist in this world.

The Korean War made everyone miserable, and my grandfather wasn’t a man who could feed the family. It was my father, the second son, who took care of his family from an early age. I heard he was a genius at school. He memorized everything even he didn’t make any note and had to work after school since ten or so. He climbed the social ladder quickly exercising his brain and diligence after the war in the rapidly developing country, enough to provide the affluent life to his family. He paid all college tuitions for his siblings and his wife’s siblings. He bought houses for himself and his elder brother. He supported his parents until they passed away. But he didn’t say a word about these. I heard from my mother. He never complained about his labor, and he never boasted about his contribution. He just sat on the piano seat and played a while as if nothing mattered at those moments. He never said how sad he was when his youngest brother died during the army service, but he went to his brother’s cemetery every year on the national Patriot holiday. I used to go with him when I was a kid, and I knew my company made him happy.

I didn’t realize at that time, but there must be some common interests between him and me. I remember the first time I opened the Nietzsche in his bookshelf and my lifetime affection for Nietzsche began. It was a worn green hardcover book with the embedded golden title. The paper was brownish yellow and the lines aligned vertically from right to left like the old Asian scripts. I could smell the book’s age when I turned the page. Still, I can see clearly that a teenage girl stood in front of that bookshelf forgetting time and space, and took out “Human, All Too Human” among the Hemingways and the Fitzgeralds. I also read the copies of “To Whom Bell Tolls” and “The Sun Also Rises” from that bookshelf and my eyes were busy up and down following the vertically flowing stories.

Now I can see that my dad is a man of many talents and charms whom I nailed as a boring man when I was young because he worked every day from the morning to the evening following the same routine. I didn’t know at that time that his devotion was there, but his passion wasn’t. He has been a brilliant Korean Chess player matching to the professionals, a tireless mountaineer to the top alone or with others, a man getting poetry love letters written on large dried leaves which made my mother vigilant to catch the sender, a voracious lifetime reader who handed me the clipped newspaper articles whatever related to my work, an animal lover who had to keep his love quiet for his non-animal lover wife, and a man with a very few words having enormous sounds flowing out of his presence. Maybe I can follow the end of the string of our common interest and find a way to cross the gap between us, which caused by my indifferent and arrogant mind. I guess I am ready to hear the distant sound my dad had played when he had been younger than me now. Since sounds can reach to the distance regardless of the shape of the earth we are standing, maybe this time, sounds can time travel from the past to the present to a humble daughter who is finally ready to listen.

<March 1st, 2017, re-worked the piece written in February 23rd, 2017>


Don’t bark,
don’t growl,
I am already in pieces.
I wish there were a superglue
that could hold a broken human together.
I imagine a giant collage of shattered human souls,
glued together without order or sequence.
What a monster it would create;
even God would be scared to look.

Any Other World

The possibility kills me,
an unconscious thread,
an absurd yearning for another life,
which might wake me someday
like an overnight snow
outstretched across the field; white.

I lost my life to another life,
a new life will never come or never be,
even a horror like Kafka’s Metamorphosis
comforts me with the chance of another.
That savoring, blinding hope
robs me of this one; the only one I have.

Mirror in the Mirror

“When two mirrors are facing each other, how many mirror images are there?”

Infinite – meaningless

It’s not about waking up, it’s not about the correct counting.

It’s about nothing. It’s about being nothing hoping to be something. The hopeless dream yearning to be woken up someday to be another. Like the endless images between two mirrors facing each other. Nothing is real except your present presence between them.

Scream, if you can.

<February 15th, 2017>

Forgive, Forgiven

Forgive, forgiven. The remotest words from me.

I can hate, I can resent, I can hold spite, I can grind the hatred between my teeth all day, all night. But somehow, hating someone that much needs the energy I simply don’t have right now. I want to direct my finite power to myself, not to others, not to enemies, not to friends, just to me. I have lived my life, but I am not sure how much of it was mine. It wasn’t like that my life was taken away. Like someone who lived as a political prisoner or a captive of a war. It was me who neglected my life, my time, my body, my power, my little wishes, my simple pleasures, my sleep, my hands and knees, my ears and tongue, my thought, my joy, my sorrow, my idleness, and my dream. I didn’t tend enough of me residing in me, being too busy in feeding others, reading others, showing things to others, directing others, pleasing others, displeasing others, correcting others, ignoring others, shaming others, thinking others, being angry at others, being disappointed in others, and thinking how others were thinking of me. Now I need to let go of the significance of others in me.

I will start with breathing. Bringing my unconscious movements of my lungs into my conscious motions. Expanding the chest broad to hold the bright air of the world in. Then, eyes. Seeing things that please me and storing them in my heart to cherish. Then, ears. Filling my spiral eardrums with the sounds that vibrate for a long time in my soul. Then, nose. Taking in smells of peppermint, rosemary, lavender, oregano, mimosa, jasmine, and all fresh living things surrounding me. Then, mouth. Melting bitter with sweets, contemplating slowly every bit of life spiced up its distinctive flavor. And my beating machine of life. Filling my anemic bloodthirsty heart with the shower of dark red iron. The fully charged heart will pump my life out to march, march forward, or backward, or any direction. It will be just fine. Then, I will put my two hands on my belly, which worked so hard to sustain me this far but was always neglected because it was not up to my best expectant shape. I will let it warm with my two palms and appease its deprived being with my own body temperature. And finally, my head. I will stroke it whenever I have time giving the praises that it needed many, many times in life.

Maybe, maybe I am the one who needs to be forgiven by myself. Forgive, then forgiven.

<November 16, 2016>