‘Sonnet From A Derelict House’ and other poems by Daniel Marshall

metamorphosis

 
gulls bathe & fish in temporary rock pools
near the recycling spot in ongpo village. i wonder
if the dead mermaids of old jeju are reincarnate as gulls?
whether they thank the wind for bringing morsels of food to them?
 
have they returned to the place they liked to forage abalone,
where they taught their children how to recite the poems of the sea
& laced a 1000 soups with shell fish & sea weed?
in the translucent pools objects that don’t belong to the sea
 
but the sea has made ornate on its potter’s wheel
lie like artifacts waiting to be raised from the dead.
you can hardly recognize shards of green bottles,
broken, budget china plates, the flutes & spouts of blue vases
 
& their bases with the artists name erased by the currents.
but a saucepan lid, the nipple of its handle.
a rusty tobacco tin with mushed up cigarettes inside.
a bottle of washing up liquid. a cement bag collecting shells & kelp
 
go unchanged. no matter
the hours the mad sea potter clocks in.
 

 

the pacific

 
we walk 1 km or so,
pass through gangjeong village,
away from where ajummas
who look like permed mussolinis,
gut & flense red porgy & barter
at the pitch of cash registers, on the street corner.
beyond the outskirts
where the abandoned banners of protest
against the construction of a naval base is stationed,
to where the pacific ocean is being itself.
the land emptied. the roads emptied. people emptied.
the ocean here moves the mood to its own way.
& we are moved with it too.
because we are people.
 

jeju church

 
the telegraph cables wobble like plucked harp strings.
i follow them to a church: the modem of god.
the fastest router to his love & law.
 
i doubt they get a decent signal there;
therefore anxiety’s doppleganger cowers behind the plastic pews,
in a church, without nave or apse; persistent
 
their’s is a church suitable for gaggling wants to god.
the neon crucifix where the lightning rod should be picking petals of dark
to save the air conditioned congregation from the godless element.
 
the don’t see that the weather is god, their livelihood.
they don’t see out there is all god can be
& the only place he might find comfort from the grind of his silence.
 

 

눈 = snow & eye

 
this blizzard two days deep is an anomaly
: it hasn’t snowed like this for 35 years.
the island’s comatose yet comfortably delivered from
the common arrangements of any old day
: farmers off the hook with needy furrows;
disheartened tourists hop scotch 4 dimensions a-z;
the restaurants full of happy people getting drunk;
biyang island’s buggered off all afternoon,
a graphite smudge in the corner of a child’s sketch.
i feel a perfect ease in this seraglio of snow,
furnished with moving tapestries of conifer & crow.
litters of onion & cabbage, the brown flame
of decay like the edges of old manuscripts
spreading to the whorls & cores.
the harem wenches shaped like soil who swaddled them,
who with familiar cuddles warmed
their spindly legs until the autumn harvest,
look bored without their motherly duties.
there isn’t a soul & if there was
a barrier of snow rushes between us.
flocks of sparrows navigate the drift,
the traffic of currents & pockets of gale
quiff the snow on the ridge ahead.
i hope i never find time to return to the world.


sonnet from a derelict house

 

the village houses dumb with old age. blind & windowless of their worth.
their pipe-orifices blow off excess steam. asbestos hunkered in their heads.
a few roof tiles absent : old storms popped them off like champagne corks.
cut short like children who are seen but never heard. downcast & diffident.
they mime their rantings at a generation that admires but does not fix.
they had an idiolect arrested by indifference & so they do not croak
objections to invasive mainlanders with café aspirations.
they’ve busied themselves like a mouth chock full of ginseng sweets
so long, they forgot the peal of beauty poking from their grout,
the saturating mold that sticks them together. you’ve not decided you have value yet.
when the aesthetic nuances of apartments lie in tatters: when the weathered marks,
the petroleum foot prints & ichor rust begin to tell on iron bones & fiber glass skin
they’ll hurry back to you with a lick of paint, stucco & warm sibilant love,
their guests will write on post-it notes they are too guilty to compose themselves.

fish lady

 
the jeju grandma who squats outside the chiropractor
sells gold bream, kelp & mackerel piled in little blue baskets.
the lamppost is her backrest, the pavement is her chair.
her back’s bent like an oreum. she must be in a lot of pain.
most of the day she naps with the fishes. i never saw her sell a thing
& i can’t cook fish in the café : it makes a dreadful stink.

the air in hallim town is thick with salt & brine.
it comes from the sea hidden in netted hauls of jeju cuttlefish
-red freckled tentacles like broken fingers & heads like bone china vases.
her bones are rusty as a trawlers’ nuts & bolts.
her knuckles have been bleached with salt & cold.
she’s wrapped up in a microfiber blanket, she has no gore-tex clothes.

her veins bulge out of tissue flesh, like highways on a map,
the luggage of her grueling years drags under her eyes.
after working seven days a week, outdoors in the fields,
or on the wet street, since she was a teenager,
the elements have buffeted her geography’s shape inside & out.
we can travel her hardships without a compass needle.

there is no son or daughter to help her lug the stock.
she has mothered. be sure of that. suckled & smacked them into citizens.
they’ve been consumed with seoul’s nightly attractions: pork & soju.
disfigured by charts & indexes, the etiquette of the salary man
: the boss says drink! we say how much? the boss says jump! we say from where!
if only she’d not shamed their island roots they’d be less corpulent.

on sunday all the shops & vendors on the street stop trade.
she goes to church & tends the spirit then goes home to tend the soil.
she has a little garden behind her little house beside the sea.
she grows a row of cabbages, spring onions & garlic
: in autumn for the umpteenth time she’ll make kimchi for the year ahead
: the fuel for her to endure one more ring of seasons in the harbour town.

one day, i’ll go to the chiropractor & she won’t be outside
& her fish will not have been caught & birth prodigious shoals.

Daniel Marshall is a poet from England who now lives in Jeju Island, Korea, where he runs a café & guesthouse, which he built with his wife from the soil up. He is an emerging writer who, when he manages his time well, writes & blogs. You can read several of his ongoing projects here & a number of articles he wrote on dream psychology & analysis whilst he lived in the mountains of mainland Korea. Feel free to contact him anytime through his blog:
 
https://danielpaulmarshall.wordpress.com/
or at danielpaulmarshall85@gmail.com
 
Sonnet From A Derelict House and other poems are © Daniel Marshall