故土 [고토: Homeland (Ancient Ground)]

&quotHaenyeo,&quot Bridget Harding, Jeju-do.
By Spencer Lee Lenfield, ETA ’17-’18 / Photograph by Bridget Harding

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Argument: Memory is not merely personal, but comes into us from what (and who) is around us: in a word, heritage. So we each excavate what memories we can from the materials, accounts, minds, and bodies around us, even if those materials often thwart our best efforts to understand them.
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老女 [노녀: Lady (Aged)]
Innumerable years
approach hawking
sundries, back
fixed parallel
over wares—
bloody century’s
unseen retainer.
I saw an elderly woman with a severely bent back, selling chestnuts for a pittance to a crowd that barely saw her. She looked as if she bore the weight of entire past century of this peninsula.
格子 [격자: Lattice (Temple)]
Decline representation,
simply afford
ornament where
needless—delight
where unseen
mosses witness
tonsured susurrations.
The geometric openwork on the doors and windows of temples and palaces has obsessed me. (I have an album full of pictures.)
量子 [양자: Quantum (Both)]
Indeterminacy holds
greater information:
three states
(yes/no/both),
limitless computing
power, unseemly
logical consequence.
I, too—
Yangja is a homophone for “adopted child” and “quantum,” two things which hold more information than should be possible due to the innate unknowability of certain properties.
復元 [복원: Rebuilding (Palace)]
History denies
authenticity fetishes’
needless luxury:
selfsame ink
recopying burnt
tomes, ceaseless
necessity. Remade
ourselves, wove
memories purposively,
expensively. Remembrance,
however plasticine,
bests even
palimpsestic disappearance.
So many of Korea’s most noteworthy historical sites are actually reconstructions, and people seem obsessed with the question of their authenticity, but that authenticity is beside the point. What they speak to now is the choice to remember when forgetting was possible.
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血管 [혈관: Vessel (Blood)]
Starburst dappled
across crabbed
cheeks. Treated,
salved, concealed;
one shot
unmasks. Decipher
capillary scribbles,
descry flesh’s
lurking archive—
centuries knotted
here, three
thousand li.
Blood vessels can be unsightly enough that we try to make them invisible, but they return, like scribbles on the body. They too bear messages of a kind, and carry elements with a past far beyond a single life.

 




Spencer Lee Lenfeld is a 2017-2018 ETA at Hwacheon Middle School in Hwacheon, Gangwon-do.