The Subject Matter

“…the beauty that can never be poor at any circumstance.”

I want to write beautiful things about this world, or this life, or this day, or this breath, or this encounter, like magicians pulling out pleasant surprises out of their silk hat. I could write about money, job, power, hatred, remorse, paired with regret, pain, suffering, depression… but, I don’t want to. I could write how some human beings’ achievements are so great, can be admired; the patience, the sacrifice, the noble thoughts and deeds. Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Woolf… But they do not interest me anymore.

The sunlight from the West of the setting sun through the window glaring my eyes when I’m typing this, interests me. The four straight stems of my pink cyclamen flowers’ confident stature, awes me. The white tail up running-away move of a fluffy bunny when my dog found it too late to catch, amuses me.  The smell, the sound, the view of beautiful things around me, tantalize the palette of my taste for life and the zeal for my fingers for writing. I’m not the same person who wrote the poems in “Walking with Shadow”. Now, surprisingly lengthened shadow of me under the morning sun treads lightly on the trail. Why shouldn’t I move to the exhilarating side of life? Why not? Lit the light inside and use that brightness as the guidance for my path of living, instead of hiding in the dark with narrowing eyes figuring out something or someone or situation, not to be deceived, not to be hurt, not to be failed.

Life, moves and stops, as I wrote in my piece “A Storm” a couple of years ago. It will definitely stop at some point, or move sluggishly without my permission or my intention, even with my rejection. Then, why stop now? To hold on to what? What are my fingers gripping onto? What will be permanent except the plastic bags in the ocean? Time erodes everything. That’s the most marvelous creation of God, that damn bastard created time to destroy what he/she created. Beautiful or ugly, good or bad, all will be gone… if this is the case, I want to turn my face to beauty at this moment.

The paper, the pen, the words are what I have. I want to create beauty or at least re-visit beauty with the meager tools I have. Maybe I should drop the desperate fiction that I started five years ago to weave poems with my fingers instead… catch the divine with the net of amplified sense and bring it to the shore to boost to the spectators. The silver glitters of scales of a shiny catch… the delicate petals of flowers so submissive to time… dense dark chocolate melting at the tip of the tongue, the mellow silence of the untouched guitar strings, the arms and the fingers, the shoulders and the waist, the sweat… the sticky, the slimy, wet to dry… warm and cold, hot and chill… oh my god… catching the moments with the pen… too much beauty, too much to be tasted… the satisfying bite of a well ripe banana and the smell… how easy to eat that thing, I am always astonished when I peel it off.

Not money, not power, not job… not the hunger for food… but the appetite for beauty of this world… the letters under my fingertips… the beauty that can never be poor at any circumstance. The sunshine, the rain, the snow, the grey clouds, the storm, the wind, the breeze, my white desk, the pale blue bedsheets, the eyes, the eyebrows, the skin, the touch, a brief sleep, the green, the trees, the bare trees, the arms, the wrists, the hands, the ears, the sounds, the sights, the tastes, the groping mind of all. The beauty here… in my gathered two hands, presenting… to… the wings that have known the thin air, soaring, in midday.

<July 15th, 2019>

Dadeumi

“the sound evoked peaceful sorrow or sorrowful peace…
with the regular beat of the safety, the solidity, the unbroken guard…”

The sound of Dadeumi. The regular beat of a pair of wooden bats pounding the folded fabric overlaid on the sturdy stone, a way of ironing unique to Korea popular in the 17-18 century.

I often think that I might be the last generation holding some specific sensory memories related to the things disappearing over time in my culture. Dadeumi must have gone even before my elementary school years in most of my country. When I visited my paternal grandmother’s house far south of the Korean peninsula during the summer, there was a Dadeumi, the stone base and two wooden bats in the small corner room. I don’t remember if I saw anyone actually doing it, but I heard the sound of Dadeumi occasionally. The rhythmic beating sound in the early evening evoked some kind of peaceful sorrow or sorrowful peace, putting me into study sleep. The beautiful sound generated by the everyday chore of women in the past generation, metaphorically related to a woman waiting for her husband’s return home late at night. I can still clearly hear the regular beat, almost felt like the weightless sound of the cautious longing of a woman dissolved in her demanding labor.

It must have been a small world to the women back then, like the moon’s orbit around the earth compared to the other stars. I wonder what she must have thought, felt, and not felt, when she beat the clothes of her husband, in-laws, children, draped over the smooth stone with the bats for the long hours. The palms must have gotten red and sore when she picked up this chore for the first time. Then, her hands got tougher over the years of her housework, showing some calluses that hardened many things in her life. I wonder if her shoulders got stronger or ached more over time with this work.

There is a unique word in Korean, which is untranslatable in any other language, “Haan”, I think it was the strong desire for a life that was unlived by all these women, reduced by the cultural circumstance in their lives. It is sad but beautiful because they took this path with pride and tried to live this term given to them as best they could, even though their unfulfilled lives solidified somewhere inside, generating the ringing sound that made the listener gaze long into the empty space or on the verge of tears with no particular reason. But the regular beat always brought the safety, the solidity, the unbroken guard of the life that our past women held for their family, sacrificing all the desires of tasting, drinking, gulping down their own lives.

Sometimes, I close my eyes groping back for the beautiful sound of Dadeumi, and feel lucky that I can only imagine this sound now with a little glitter of nostalgia over the things gone forever. The stars had burst to all directions of the universe, including the little moons in every household of the past.

<June 5th, 2019>

Two Time Zones

Another clock tick-tocked inside for the last ten years.

But, surely, her other clock faded inside her. She often forgot the time in the East. Whatever, she is here. The night is the night, the day is the day, the sun is the sun, the moon is the moon, the afternoon is the afternoon, the morning is the morning, whatever time is now, now is now. She is one, not a half, not split, not divided, one, one and the only, in her life, for her life.

<May 29th, 2019>

A Lilac Tree and A Dog

She already knows what she would bring to her new house. The house that she would live by herself all alone for the first time in her life. This new house reminds of her childhood home in some way. It has an enclosed garden with the walls. There is the red door to the garden from outside and the entrance to the house is a few steps up from the garden. It has two stories, which is different from her childhood house, fewer bedrooms, but it has a taste of her old house.

There are two things she remembers fondly about her house where she grew up.
One was a big lilac tree by her bedroom window. She had the largest room in her house when she was in high school that felt like a big multi-purpose room than a bedroom. Her desk was by the window facing South and a Japanese lilac tree having white purple flowers rooted by her window, drooping its mature healthy branches. When the flowers blossomed, the breezed in scent was fragrant and strong, almost hypnotizing. Something not belonging to the earth was in that volatile invisible particles. She sat a lot on her desk, studying and reading, that enchanting fragrance associated with her time when everything was quiet, landing into the serenity of the letters that she dipped herself in at that time. Maybe she was fully present there not belonging to the place she was at, drifting.

The other thing that she loved in those years was a brown dog she had about two or three years. He was one dumb mutt. The trainings never worked for him, but he loved people a lot, maybe too much. When he saw one of the family members coming home at any time of the day, he jumped up and down circling and dancing, sometimes he tripped on his own excitement greeting his family and sprang back up doing the same move all over again that made her laugh. He was often filthy because he rolled over his own poop during his exciting dance. Also, he collected many household items in his house and made holes in every milk cartoon delivered inside through under the gate of the house. He licked all the milk. All these made her mother very mad. That must be the reason that he disappeared suddenly when she got back home from school. The house would never be the same for her after that dog had gone. But she hadn’t said a word to anyone about it at that time.

One of the reasons that she chose this new house with a small garden with the walls is her dog. She isn’t a gardening type but her dog that she has now needs an outside space. The size of her dog is pretty much the same as the dog that she had in her childhood. This one has the same fluffy tail like a big bloom, just only white in color. She often thinks her old dog ran through many lives and came to her as this one. This dog is very clever and never trips on anything. He is cautious, smart, and somewhat reserved. But he follows her wherever she goes and looks at her every move, especially when she tries to eat something he likes.

What will she bring to the new house? Definitely not the painful memories.
She wants to take a long shower before the move to wash off all the things that she had carried like a heavy baggage from her young years to now and step out with the fresh naked self to mist her life at the new place with the perfume made with the hypnotic scent of all the flowers in the garden. She thinks that this house might be the last one in her life, so when she leaves this one, she wants to hold something tight in her chest, something beautiful, something precious, something just enough for her, in this life, as a whole.

<May 1st, 2019>

Fire

“I would have taken someone’s hand,
even though I had known that
it was the gate to the hell’s fire.”

Heat first to decompose the flammable material into volatile gas. These volatiles are oxidized by oxygen in the air and the chemical reaction happens to release radicals. This is the time when flame can be seen with the eyes and the radical reaction generates heat. This heat decomposes the flammable thing again and it cycles back to the beginning of the fire. It is a process. Fire already happens before flame can be noticed in the eyes.
Three things required for fire to happen or continue. Heat, fuel, and oxygen. If any of these three is removed during the process, the fire dies out.

Once I wrote that it is hard to unlearn what already learned. It was there in my brain and came out involuntarily without my consent. So does memory. The opposite is also true. At times, I was desperately rummaging my brain for a certain piece of knowledge or a memory, but I couldn’t retrieve it. My despair. I lost it.

To hold onto it, to retrieve it, to release it, I write.
I use an infinite blank space to get help, to store the precious moments to come back, to grope with my mind’s eyes… feeling the same emotion, or deeper because I knew that it was not here anymore. Then, I felt my heart moving in different wild ways beyond the blood pumping to my physical body.

Eyes to see, ears to listen, hands to what?
All kinds of activities were up to hands. The movement was related to the person, the occasion, the moment, and the decision. I can write, I can type, I can land them in front of my heart to pray. I don’t have to look at them for certain moves, I have to look at them for certain moves, I have to even hold them refraining them from certain moves, like to stop shaking or the third finger rising. They got often cold for me, so I put them under my thighs when I sat and waited for someone. That someone made me cold a lot, but I remember him with a fire in my heart. He asked my hand for something, and I took his hand not for something but because it was his hand.

I give directions with my hands. I cover my face with them, I wipe my tears with them, I rub my eyes with them. Often I lit the candle with them and watch the flame grow, and think of the process of fire. It is already there before the flame happens. I would have taken someone’s hand, even though it was the gate to the hell’s fire.
Time passed. One of the three for the fire to progress died out. One hand under my chin, I’m watching the snowfield and the pale pink and blue sky painted by the rising sun. The morning.

<March 7th, 2019>

MouthFull

The feeling of satisfactory fullness of spaghetti noodles one third overflowing over my mouth, the freshly cooked white rice stuffed greedily with the side dishes on the table, the big bite of a fat burger trying to hold everything between the buns, cheese, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, meat, pickles, and the delicate maneuver of creating the chemistry of taste in the barely moving food inside the mouth.

I forgot this feeling after I became a pescatarian three years ago. The mystery of practicing yoga or aging, I don’t know which one contributed more, affected my eating habit somehow. I was a born meat eater. I really loved the fat ingrained hanger steak, heavily sauced deep-fried chicken wings, and the following course, the devilishly sweet dessert that swept the memory of the greasiness of main dish away. Then, one day after yoga, I was hungry and cooked hastily the good-looking skirt steak and ate the whole thing, and felt sick. I couldn’t get out of the bad experience for a week, started to refrain from meat, and felt better over time with my new pattern of diet. As my meat consumption strongly related to my sweet consumption, I ate fewer desserts, and somehow, I lost the taste that I was looking for before. They were not delicious anymore. Tasting meat when I cooked for my son became a little trouble for me. I became a thinker in front of a plate nibbling this and that, like the ladies I hadn’t liked before assuming them to be too picky. I became one. My taste bud transformed and I thought the carnivore world vanished over the horizon for me until now.

Adding a new physical activity 9 months ago changed my desire for certain foods once again. A couple of months ago, after my active class of Jeet Kune Do (JKD, the Bruce Lee’s Martial Art), I found my temptation to bite into the steak I prepared for my younger son. I didn’t, but certainly, something has shifted again. I am craving the feeling of the satisfying mouthful of food like a carnivore animal taking the first bite of its hunt. I found the ravenous desire for a full mouth in me somehow related to the vigorous activity in practicing attack and defense with men full of the artificially made wild animal energy ground. And I enjoy that. But my body seems to be confused with these two very different and similar activities. Very physical in both (for me, martial art training is less physical because I am at the beginner level). In yoga, the energy goes deep inside and radiate a little outward space by the inner energy expanding. In JKD, the energy directs outward to defend and protect myself with the skills deposited inside through the practice. I love both.

As much as I like making choices in food consumption based on the increase of my body awareness through yoga, I’d love to have a big bite of something, something really full that makes my mouth hardly move, the noodles, the steamy sticky rice, the deadly delicious burger, the hot dog with the well-grilled giant sausage inside, the chunk of soft meat flaked from the divinely cooked barbeque pork ribs with its greasy sweet and a little tangy sauce… Peter Luger, Katz’s Deli, Maggiano’s were the names that I had thought that I had left in my past but now have become my question for the future destination.

Maybe I’ll nibble, maybe I’ll show my face with two cheeks budging like a squirrel in the fall with a mouthful of life. Whatever it will be, fill the plate and see what happens!

<February 20th, 2019>

The Collective Crime

To be forgiven, there should be something done wrong in the first place.
A crime, a harm, a wrongdoing. Nothing comes up to my mind in particular in this matter. However, how about the collective wrongdoing, the collective crime, the collective harm. The morality of group tends to be very low due to the shared guilt. As the group gets larger, the shared guilt gets smaller and smaller, until the moral level becomes negligible. This bothers me a lot lately when I’ve seen the clips of video or the news of nature suffering by our wrongdoings. The dead whales stuffed with plastic, the fishes on the shore having vinyl bags in their bellies, the hungry polar bear migrating looking for food due to the melted iceberg… so I wonder, when I take out a plastic bag from a packaged box to wrap the leftover bread, I really wonder if we can stop this madness or will this go on until the suffering comes to our doorstep, knocking.

Last spring, a large mama turtle died on the small road to my house. She seemed to be circling the road to find the place where she had laid eggs before. But the place was gone. The large apartment complex development had cut a thousand of trees and had fenced the area to the way to a creek. She got hit by a car by an ignorant driver, probably one of the construction trucks, I was very upset to see her body and eggs spattered on the road. I was angry, but I didn’t know where to direct my anger, I didn’t know who to blame for the death of her, for her puzzled existence for the unexplainable loss of her habitat, for her desperation to find the place to give birth, give birth to life. The life killed by the unknown hands, had more than one individual involved, the enormous crowd hiding behind the development, the consumerism, the everyday convenience of taking plastic bag out to wrap the bread to eat for a few more days.

Definitely, I did something wrong. And I don’t know how I can make it right. I don’t know how to start, how to be forgiven. I want to say sorry to that mama turtle for my helplessness watching all the trees cut down and witnessing the small nature disrupted in front of my nose. I don’t know how to raise the collective moral of the people living on earth at this time of the world clock. I don’t know how to cut back myself to do anything that would harm nature when I pump the gas into my car. I don’t know how to stop wondering when I see fruits at a grocery store that traveled across the continent or countries are so cheap for their miles of the travel. I don’t know how to stop thinking about the disturbed minds over the images of the suffering nature that forget easily over their convenience of living. I often think that, when we beg the forgiveness from nature that we have messed up, bending our knees to the ground wouldn’t be enough. I often think that it is already too late to stop the wheel of the human vice on earth. It has rolled downhill at an incredible speed that is impossible to stop until it crashes at some point.

<March 13th, 2019>