Jwagwangcheon Poems

Jwagwangcheon is a river in Jeonggwan, where I taught English 2018-19.

Jwagwangcheon, 2019

A week of shivering in the office,
turning to the hall and returning.
Tomorrow I will see my students again.

Tonight I go out along the river,
where shriveled russet leaves
cling to their branches in patches.

      Before Yongwon’s wedding the river–all
      the water brown and white–overflowed
      itself and stripped the flowers from its banks.

      That morning, children were
      throwing river-stones back
      where the water had receded.

Now there are no walkers on the grass.
But where it is shallow
there are little swimming things.

Barely illuminated by the streetlamp,
they stay still among the vegetation.

When I step on the ice above
their black bodies, they find
new places under the rocks.

Jwagwangcheon, 2018

After the bad air near the factories,
past the wooden bridge and the men fishing,
beside the corrugated shacks held together with cords,
six black goats.

To the left, away from the river,
the farmers’ radio faded.
Among the hillside trees, a gap
revealed white stone steps.

At the first terrace, two gravestones and a plastic chair.
The hilltop was sunlit. It held more stones.
There, I, shuffling, remained—unwelcomed.

October 20, 2023