Kyle Wade Grove


in jongno, the streetside vendors grill squid
on igneous coffee stones. nap in newspaper stands.
tapgol park sits solemn in its rusted russet pagoda,
log-cabin corners brown in the hesitating rain.

it's here where the old men, in plaid jackets and paisley ties,
loiter like teenagers,
dickering combs and harmonicas, chestnuts roasted in the pages
of old calculus texts.

witness, the green glow of soju bottles,
the same glow of escalator stairs splitting in rebirth.

in the skyline,
polygons of glass weave themselves upward,
thrusting for vantage.

the plastic nebula of neon hangul,
defused for now, the dreary daytime.
but at night, when the city lights up
with the cash virus, those letters,
alien as a code, glow
as if wrapped in stained glass.

but I trot
across the crosswalk, through this corset of traffic,
bound to a tail of green triangles
ticking down.

every building
blurring in the smog.
residue of exhaust
trickling down my ears.

silver maples fluttering tall in the streetlight,
the leaves broken with smoker's lung --
seoul's eternal autumn.

this murder flow of cars is its chaotic heart.
bags of garbage, spilling stink
like ruined grapes,
stick to the sidewalk.

back to a secret lane, to breathe and stretch.
the byzantine back alley, where canopies cooperate
to stretch canvas tunnels for the secret
city, smells of cabbage and garlic.
blink and you would overlook this world,
where pools of unsopped oil stain the sidewalk,
from the motorbike crankcases cut down for parts,
where the bicycles are aluminum spiders rusting
the slippery path.

the world has grown small
today, horizon whitewashed by smog.
we stroll in the limbo, the film
developing on our exposed skin, our faces grown akin
in grease.

on the corner stands a paper birch, stone dead
in this eternal autumn's blight, corrupted sky sends no
succor for our breath or sight.   this tree's bark,
gray-tone as an atlas faded beige,
or the world gone soft in age.

Location: Dayton, Ohio
Publications: Stirring

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