Ed Bok Lee is the author of Real Karaoke People, winner of a PEN/Beyond
Margins Award. Lee has recited his poetry across the U.S., Europe, and
Asia, as well as for radio and TV, including MTV. www.edboklee.com

Several Mountains

Is a peaceful monk old
enough to orphan?

Chanting erases geese.
Diluted brushstrokes

redirect wind. There
is always a path back

through autumn.
Though we go

like cities, a cancer
of appetites. Live

alone in borrowed music.
I didn't ask for this.

A cast-out angel
smashed into me.

But I have almost repaired
her veins. I have

almost collected enough rain
to re-purchase

our freedom.


We're kissing again at our favorite
restaurant in K-town, smacking
half-groans, animal gnashing sweet
kalbi off the shortrib bone;

daenjang chigae casserole gurgling
fresh clams & hot peppers;
broth of fermented soybeans
amber as the timeless hands
of Korean rice farmers

If we stopped undressing for a moment & sniffed,
you could smell destiny throbbing
between kimchi, garlic, barley
steam, moo, perilla leaf, & sesame
oiled strips of vinegary seaweed

Recline, & I'll show you
something of love, spicy
sweat, soju one-shots & everything else
I believe this bland world needs more of--
cheeks round, guts glorious

Or, I'll just close my menu
& ask
what are you craving

At 'Last Boshintang Restaurant' in Seoul

Eating dog is a little
like watching soldiers kill
& die on the nightly news

Stringy mouthfuls somewhere
between steer, snake, greasy
politician & sweet pet

Maybe you'd rather not
have another serving,
but eventually
you can get used to it

Conversation W/Ozu in Hospital

"Idealism & nostalgia, two opposing eyes."

Yellow canaries grow neurons by learning new songs.
Beauty kills old ones in smoky karaoke bars.

"I'm dying in reverse, it seems."

Then it rained on the beer commercial models in double-time.

"One rarely hears silence's worm."

Nineteen thousand two-hundred seventy-one cherry blossoms
waving good-day...

Things that continue post-mortem:
fingernails, gossamer hair, the rare bone
cell, an urge
to view the world at waist level.

"Abundances of arboreal & nocturnal flying insects
differ little between the forest edge & interior." (trans.)

"Like Crohn's Disease?"

No, as an imaginary planet of black&white, skin-musk ghosts.

More than one's will, what tends to work
are a few simple grooming gestures.

Quietly kaleidoscopic; an oil lamp-lit lotus pond
in late-spring dense with fireflies & plankton...

Setsuko returns home from the picnic to find
the camera has eaten her father & is
panning back toward her body folding into a field
of chrysanthemums.

"All left behind for someone else's great-grandson
to breathe upon a dragonfly's wing...."


"No, it was only after the second war that sound meant something again... "
The long empty highway, clouds incandescent, telephone poles
forlorn like every home's half-built fence.

Cut to: Drunken kabuki actor
on a bicycle, whistling
a tune no one wishes to remember the true melody to...

"The Shochiku Film Company? Yes,
most regrettable for any monumental Tokyo office to receive
reconstruction in a Godzilla set."

All but the glimmer gone.

NOTE: Yasujiro Ozu (December 12, 1903 - December 12, 1963)--film director whose distinctive, influential classics about family life throughout four decades of Japan's industrialization are often said to exemplify the concept of Mono no aware, an acute awareness of the impermanence of things.

"Conversation w/Ozu in Hospital" originally published in different form in Dislocate.

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