Languish

by Julia Gardner


Before school we chopstick
dead tadpoles from a water-filled
candy jar so our students won’t see
the small eelish figures
cannibalizing their brothers.
When kids enter a school
of tadpoles nibble egg bits
as I flounce around language,
teach them the word bilingual.
They say, our school is bilingual
as though we all have two tongues
treading backwash in our throat
while my mouth is a pond holding
a single, limbless tadpole.

Julia Gardner is a poet and former teacher from the DC area. She organized the Liquid Arts writer’s workshop in Busan, South Korea where she performed spoken word. She is presently an MFA candidate at St. Mary’s College of California.

Three Poems of Korea

Lag

by Ash Dean

Jiyoung   looks over  a  bowl 

of tiny dried fish      seaweed

and rice  While  I     eat    my

cereal hoops    We          flew

against  the     spin  through

the night  shuttered    inside     

with  an  unquiet mind now

everything  is  off    We  vow    

to keep breakfast       in  our

new time without   sleeping   

I  feel   somehow      divided  

from    myself    Somewhere     

I am       plowing         a field       

or baiting   a hook  morning     

is brisk                I wait      for

water   the         zig zag   line

at immigration       replaced

by the smell   of rusty pipes  

Sitting here   with my   wife

I make another vow to find 

myself  I am   behind   I am

ahead   The good world   It

wobbles as it spins The sky

never waits    but     we are

bound     to          return we

are bound  to    the        arc 

of    the      earth        never

completely    at rest       the

muscle          in our      chest

wherever we        stand      it  

pushes       and          pushes         

but  never    away  while we

ride   We         always     ride

RECOGNITION: PUSAN, SOUTH KOREA

by Bob Perchan

You know you’re
at home
finally
in a foreign land
among an alien
folk
on the street
in the market
at a bus
stop when
from the face
of a stranger
strutting young
blade or dolled
up agashi
(“virgin miss”)
besotted office
drone stumbling
homeward
crinkled sidewalk
auntie peddling
mushrooms
and yams
the familiar eyes
of an old
friend decades
dead
a perished father
a lover long
gone over to
the Other Side
stare back

Dear Korea

by Sean O’Gorman

Dear Korea

and your dreamy neon lights,
Nascar cab drivers indifferent to my safety belts,
you’ve always given me a bed,
at times it’s been a park bench,
but if you couldn’t get me home you always woke me up
with sunlight.
Thank you.

When you live across the ocean from your past
done it long enough
you begin to speak mostly in landmarks
and memories.

Being here there’s a list of names
it grows inside of you
you’ll watch it get longer with the more people you meet.

Here we cram lifetimes into years
the way we do holidays into weekends.
Our friends back home will never understand
this shifted perception of time we share.
We blink in months.
The realization of how long I’ve been here
is the difference between surprise
and shock.
I’ve coasted this peninsula for more days
than it has kilometers around it.

The clocks here all speak in rotaries,
the calendars laugh every year I come around.
I swear every single one I buy has fewer days in it.
Time here only recognizes what you’ve done,

It doesn’t care about what you want to do
so we take our hearts out of our chests for each other,
for the people we’ve just met.
When we do meet
when we find each other,
it will be somewhere lost.
It’ll feel like I’ve always known you
been looking for you
didn’t know it until that very moment.

If you’re new I’ll pull you aside.
List all the groups to join online.
I’ll tell you
there’s a truth to the noraebangs,
we half mention it on the nights that never end.

Make the most of your time here,
but be mindful of a few things.
People drive motorcycles on the sidewalks in this place.
Drinking is its own highway
half wonderful
half blackout thunderstorm,
there’s nothing at the end of it,
trust me,
I’ve looked.

If you need me
I’ll always be in the way,
somewhere between last class
and first drink,
look for me where I eat
where the tables are the offspring of building blocks,
they cater to any size crowd.
When I ask to meet you
it’ll be half-way.
Meet me at that place
where for some reason
only one of us knows how to get to,
we’ll speak in pin drops just to get there.

What I love about this community,
the people here
all recommend other people you should meet.

To everyone on that list inside of me
all of you reading this right now,
it’ll feel like a coin toss
which one of us will leave first.
If it’s you
we’ll throw the right kind of party
it will begin somewhere in an afternoon,
shuffle last times
in favourite places.
It will end a few days later
a little more broken
but a bit more ready.
If I’m the one to go
know this
I will carry a piece of you with me,
all my friends back home
will know you by name.
A part of me will break.

When we do leave,
we’ll never fully leave each other,
a part of us will always exist here
like songs lost in a playlist.
I’ll remember you
when I find a sudden genre shift to the music,
where a single drink
turns into an entire night
when I stay up late enough to watch the sunrise
anytime I eat take out
you’ll exist for a moment there
on the outskirts of my peripheral vision.
Remember me when you spell a word wrong,
when one of your friends
drunkenly leaves the bar
without saying goodbye.
I’ll exist in those moments
when they become no longer physical
a landmark trapped in a memory.
a picture in a shoebox
a smile
when you’re all alone.

Ash Dean is an MFA graduate of The International Writing Program at City University of Hong Kong. He grew up in Ferguson, Missouri and currently lives in Songdo, South Korea. His work has appeared in Amethyst, Cha, Drunken-Boat, Gravel, Ma La, Mason’s Road, Red Coyote, Soul-Lit and anthologized in Afterness: Literature from the New Transnational Asia. He is the author of Cardiography from Finishing Line Press.

Robert Perchan’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press 2005 Weldon Kees Award).  His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000.   In 2007 his short-short story “The Neoplastic Surgeon” won the on-line Entelechy: Mind and Culture Bio-fiction Prize.  He currently resides in Pusan, South Korea.  You can see some of his stuff on robertperchan.com.

Sean O’Gorman is a Canadian spoken word poet living in Ulsan, South Korea. He’s the literary editor for Angle Magazine and has been organizing the Cypher open mic in Ulsan for the past 6 years. He’s competed in multiple national and international poetry slams, toured Canada as the featured poet twice, and released 5 collections of his work.

Howie Good

Ashes, Ashes

About 5 in the morning, while most passengers were still asleep, the train barreled across the short border between darkness and light. My carryall bag on the overhead rack contained an entire set of ant-dreams in polished amber. Spies lurked everywhere. “Moose. Indian,” they reported me telling a contact. Actually, I wouldn’t meet my contact, an Orchid of Asia, until some days later. At one point I forgot the word “cremated” and had to ask her, “What’s it called – incinerating the body?” We were standing in a muddy alley by a pomegranate tree whose fruit the children pretended were bombs.

The Wind

Somehow we were always expecting something like this, a strange wind off the Atlantic, moaning and cursing and full of old hurts, tearing shingles from roofs and slamming birds against windows, threatening to fling us, too, into another country, where there are roadblocks and random document checks and coked-up child soldiers with machine guns cradled lovingly in their arms, and still it comes as a shock, so many people given a shove or a thorough beating and warned to move on, a pretty crappy way to die, when we might have just stayed together under a green tent of leaves.

Howie Good is the author of I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books and A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submission Press.

Learning to Speak

by Wallace Kaufman

(for my friends in the US0SU Radio Operators’ Expedition, Chukotka 1989)

Last year when it was over,
when I took off Dimitri’s parka
Valery’s boots and Sergei’s fur hat
that had kept me alive,
we embraced and were very sad
and looked at each other as if to say,
“If only we could speak.”
From one station in a shipping crate
from one antenna in the snows,
across the pole and frozen Siberia
around the world went our hope
in two languages and Morse code
speaking of one world.
But looking at each other
We could say only, “Good-bye and Dos Vi Danya.”


Learning a new language at fifty
is like learning ballet at seventy.
I love the music of new words
the dance of new thoughts,
a drumbeat of names:
Pevek and Anadyr, Roytan and Wrangel,
Larisa, Volodya, Valya and Slava,
Pyotr, Victor, Ludi, Villi, Yuri.
I want to come back to the north
and talk with you about polar bears,
and the ice floes, about icebreakers,
and the long night,
and the flowers on the tundra,
about where you came from
and where you are going,
and if the arctic will still be white
when our children have children.


I stumble along in Russian now,
but my mind is like a bad fish net
with many holes and often
when I try to pull in a few words I need,
they escape just as I think I have grasped them,
especially the big ones.
I have boxes and boxes of little cards
with words and phrases on them.
I am like a man building a tree
out of dry leaves.
In my own language I can write poems and stories
that make people laugh and cry.
But if you could hear and read
the words and sentences
exactly as I speak my new language
you would have to laugh at me and cry for me,
how I mangle your Russian words.
That’s okay.
I trust you.
We will laugh and cry together.
So it is in the best families.

Wallace Kaufman’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have been widely published along with several books of non-fiction and one sci-fi novel that takes place largely in Kazakhstan. Visit www.sicvita.com to learn more about the author.

Returning to that Country

by Fraser Sutherland

I am afraid to return to that small green country
of hills and hollows. No one’s there of whom to be afraid.
What would await: the ashes of my son buried near
the bones of my brother, though neither can harm or hurt me
except the brackets of their living and their dying.
I woke to a cerebral-palsied brother making an outcry
from his narrow rubber-sheet pissy bed next to mine.
Far apart in time and space I wrestled on the floor
a psychotic son who daily took the improving pills

that killed him. Ashes and bones are stilled by time,
they don’t go on like the plum and cherry I planted
as if to defy long winters and the nowhere spring.
To see in summer that smiling country would make me wonder
what I have to fear. But here, far away, I re-enact what went on,
that kept going on, of someone suffering in the next bed.