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.
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
by Sean O’Gorman
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 AngleMagazine 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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.