This city does not sleep,
the wind as wistful as thoughts I cannot gather,
here, on this sojourn to the south of Seoul.
Horns honk along highways
waking drivers out of daydreams the night can’t decipher
and we buckle up and giggle briefly in back seats
but I cannot distinguish those star-bound lanterns hung with hope
from the knotted sheets I know not how to untwist.
On the soft slopes,
where Buddha has been worshiped into rock,
helicopters chase the rising sun
while you chase the parts of yourself pills cannot pacify.
Dysphoria is the new mantra.
This body won’t sleep,
this mind has taken to meander along this midway
as trumpeters announce connecting trains
we are always breathless to keep up with,
where palaces accumulate space
in place of standard stains of garish gold,
here, on this eastern stretch of the journey,
here, where cars honk in foreign tongues, far from familiar.
All is not what it once seemed,
this mouth no longer makes sense
as I cut across these sweeping vistas of strange words
breathed with bows and ways so traditional they worry the West.
Here, where there is more space to breathe and my lungs ache to adapt.
In the North,
strange armies are Trumping connections
the other continents are too confused to comprehend.
south of the strangled ties and demented ducks,
sitting sweet beneath a wiser moon,
the streets are awash with twinkling stars
below a billowing blanket of nature’s blossom;
a covering of comfort which concrete can’t squash and man cannot master.
My body can’t sleep…
I’ve seen too much but still hope for more
while this city wakes up to who it truly wants to be.
All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly. This is a reworked poem for a week recalling last year’s breathless sojourn in South Korea. Photo taken outside the Dongaemun Design Plaza.