Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Dog Like the Chicken

(Just to let you know, this is a true story (hence twisted and quirky) about my years in Korea97-99. This poem abbreviates the first six months. My 1997 Korea Diary is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but it's mis-catalogued as the Japan Diary as the Librarian has been drinkin')

Green as tea to Korea--suitcase for furniture.
So I picked up a dog--attracted to his fur.
A one-way ticket on a thirteen hour ride.
Left the scene in Chicago--part-time art--let it slide.

Nodding bows with the driver---black hair--black glasses.
Seedy Love Hotel---"tomorrow is classes."
"You know the game here? It ain't too tough.
But the first six months can be kind of rough."

Black footed dog--we shared kimchi and rice.
Bit later, my own kitchen-- everything nice.
Got off the the classroom next day.
Teachin' some kids to say "B" "C" and "A."

A cow becomes beef and pig becomes pork.
Lesson two-we move on to the knife and the fork.
"But what does a dog become?" --Rack my brain.
The dog like the chicken--they stay the same.

This lookin' to be---a real comfortable gig.
Break time at three---time for a cig.
Seoul a big City---at times a backwater.
Did you see what he did to that woman's daughter?

He only eighteen if he that and she younger.
Businessmen loosening ties in wonder.
Stopping to watch her kicked fetal in street.
Just walking my dog--the people you meet.

I didn't walk I hurled a brick
But sadly the little man's skull was too thick.
What's this Yankee girl doing--hollerin' and yellin'?
He took a step forward to give me a tellin'.
But I couldn't understand--his mind or his speech.
Give me some time mate. It's just my third week.

Boss heard the story and then she don't like me.
"Don't have enough students to keep you," politely.
You don't look right either...not fully caucasian.
Oh? Got to be white to be teachin' you Asians?
But I only just got here..and you bought the ticket.
Very little money and nowhere to stick it.
I've got enough for a kimbap roll...
For Wednesday and this Seoul?

Take a plane to Japan. Now get yourself seated.
We'll pay you when you get your work visa deleted.
Hogwan jobs like that come a dime a dozen.
Luckily I didn't have to call my cousin.

Got a new job---the very next afternoon.
With a man called James--he had four rooms.
One for the kiddies and one for adults.
One for the housewives and one for insults.

I'm teachin' businessmen how to sell pizza.
Pick up the menu. I'm not gonna eat ya.
After the lesson, karaoke and drinks.
They gonna get lucky they startin' to think.

Add a six a.m. class for beginners at Kia.
I'm starting to have an affluent career.
Lost foreigner bit part on tv bi-weekly.
After it airs, don't the people get cheeky.

Next gig a high-school for the girls only.
Trip on the train -it start to get lonely.
James say a tourist visa works just fine.
I'm startin' to tread a very fine line.

The visa police--at the high-school arrive.
Teachers on the roof pray for their lives.
Lucky that visa I smartly distrusted.
Got out one week before deported and busted.

One night I'm up late at the Seven Eleven.
I'm in the mood for some chilified heaven.
Sit at the noodle bar--customers starin'
What's the matter is it something I'm wearin'?

A Meegook Saram. It's a Meegook Saram.
The name for American--I understand.
A businessman toked up on gallon Soju.
Takes one look at me and has something to do.

He begins to recite some unusual stuff.
"Upstairs, downstairs....." but then that's enough.
I guess that's the only English he knows.
But then he starts counting on fingers and toes.

What's your favorite color pretty lady--pretty lady?
It's my own damn business.Wanna Talk? Have to pay me.

Then on to another cowboy situation.
BCM College-Kimpo Airport Location.
Won't take the apartment that comes with the job.
I get a hotel. Not a fool. Not a snob.

Just want to get powered for the hours I keep.
You bend the rules--our contract's skin deep.
I'm givin' it back like I used to receive.
He's getting all flies on me.

Five foot two in a polyester suit.
Wonder if his wife thinks he's a brute.
Slow down little man and stop the fake grinnin'
I'll slap you so hard, you'll be needin' new fillins.

The students are giggling housewives so fun.
But soon, they start askin' too personal stuff.
It's not in the lesson we planned for today.
These are the answers I don't want to say.
Where's your husband and where are your kids?
Let's stick to the book. Why should you give a shit?

But the questions kept coming. Don't like to be queried.
Some parts of my past, I prefer to keep buried.
So brothers and sisters I start to invent.
My family's too small for a lesson that length.

And I told them my husband--he in Indonesia.
Studyin' insects with that Toxic Amnesia.
Sound so convincin'--they start to believe ya.
I got my relief, but I had to deceive you.

Next thing you know, I'm part of the family.
Teachin' their kids..eatin' rice with the Granny Lee.
Leave the hotel with the teachers behind.
The Lee family---they're far too kind.

Plane ticket for Christmas-- Go down--see your honey.
Vice Prez--Korean Air--small stash of big money.
And bring back a photo and get pregnant too.
It's a vacation, that's too much to do.
I don't have a husband--if they only knew.
But I took the ticket and down there I flew.

I've never been one to shake hands with marriage.
No white-gown girl--got a car not a carriage.
But I found a Temp-Dutchman so lost in Jdakarta.
Jungle photos with him--"other half/future father."

His collection of insects with memory loss.
We pose in his lab and we print it in gloss.
Monkeys and butterflies playin' in the sand.
I'll hand it over the moment I land.

(Spoken Time 5:50)

There's more to this tale, but it's gettin' late now.
Sejong University's Queen Bee Cow.

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