Excerpts from Celadon

 

 

Initiation

 

 

The walk sloped upward slow

to shadow-angled stadium heights. 

Late winter dulled sidewalk tulips

limp. Inside, thronging people

 

in thousands mulled for portents—

fortune seekers, trying to see

if Heavenly gates lay open

even then. Near the rooftops

 

glassless windows blew sparrows;

they hooshed balconies quick

above people’s heads—

not for territory or curiosity,

 

but merely the pleasure of an event. 

Would it be a jolt, or like a plucked

harp string? Maybe I felt human

coarseness, or the simplicity of mind—

 

who, for example, knows the number

of atoms in a universe of suns?—

but in that moment, I felt nothing happen. 

 

 

 

Sungmyo for Our Father-in-Law

 

 

By the doors of houses,

fish heads on newspapers

with oranges

and deep-fried sweet potatoes

for the street gods. 

 

The outhouses smell

like farm fields.

 

We light a cigarette,

smoke some;

lay it on dried grass

at the base

of his burial mound

 

pour makali into a cup,

drink some,

put it in front of the smoke

 

lay four paper plates, white

with holly leaves

from Christmas

 

place oranges

rice cakes—

some made with sticky corn syrup,

others sweetened with ginger,

squid strips

and bananas

on the plates

 

stand in a row

we bow like Buddhists

three times

 

eat and drink

 

ask about the names of trees,

talk about how the jays

gathered and croaked

in old villages

when someone who didn’t live there

would come

 

or how the children

followed GI’s

saying,

Ajashi, gum please!

 

Notice how the cigarette is smoked,

and remember how the old man

finished thirty a day

 

how he got a children’s book

in English,

though no one could read it,

and wrote his daughters’ names

in Chinese

on the first page.

 

 

At the bottom of the hill

the copper-colored body

of a green-headed pheasant

flaps to the heights

of white pines,

trailing its long

brush-stroked tail feathers

two feet behind the breast.

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