Failure

07/29/2009 § Leave a comment

My father, whom you might call
a self-made man, met my mother
while he was off-duty:

a café with cheap European décor
in a South Korean port city;
three men and three women
around the table, young,
each hoping, waiting, eyeing.

The women spun a fork
to decide the evening’s date.
How does one distinguish fate
from chance, when it’s
the shape of a fork? He
had a full head of hair then,
caught with an awkward smile
in the eye of a camera.

I remember being
nestled on his stomach,
my childish body swaying
to the rhythm of his breathing
on a lazy afternoon. There
was a sound I could hear
from inside of him, a kind
of murmur, an umbral lullaby.

Was that love?

After forty years of life,
after a wife and two children
and an apartment in the capital,
he was unable to accept that
things have many names, and
names, many meanings. So when love
came as forgiveness, the pity in her eyes,
he could not unfurl his fist.
Such things
he failed to understand.

In Korean, love is sarang.
It shares its etymology with
flesh, life, and knowing.

I never knew my father
beyond the warmth of his belly,
the music in his innards
that lulled me to an undreaming
childhood. Now I dream
of his fist, the heaviness
of its judgement, and
the unspoken words
smouldering in my bones
like some secret fire.

Some people
are like trees burning
with a holy flame;
they run through the forest
setting everyone
they touch for comfort
ablaze.

I wanted to exhume
the childhood
I am surviving.

Let this be a funeral of sorts.

I spread now these words
like dirt over charred bones,
to bury their eyeless stare
the failure I am meant for
lovingly.

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