Han

By Sarah Muscutt, ETA ’16-’17
&quotHan River from Seogang Bridge&quot, Amy Hourcade, Seogang Bridge Seoul

Han

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
I’ve waited
with bated breath,
lungs immobile, the chill
of awe thaws, and tiny hair soldiers stand attention
a jolting involuntary thrill and
the train emerges,
sliding from dark tunnel.
We’re always crossing the Han too fast to take it in.
Eyes swallow the river,
then rivet to lines where
sky meets steel, and steel stages
approximately 10 million
stories.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
at night
geometry, columns and constellations,
Taillights crowded, edging along.
불금1 revelry, orange and pink possibility,
seeps from street arteries
into a thirsty horizon.
Twilight hushes the city dressed in
evening.

I want to write a poem about Seoul
to explain
how the chain of subway cars,
a chimerical iridescent caterpillar,
glide along the track.
A city-spirit silent disappears into building forest,
and slithering yellow headlight snake
draws my gaze along the river bank.
I see it all across the Han,
Mythical.

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Lighted boxes,
freckled with illuminated windows to other worlds.
Cruising lifted expressways past
life stacked thirty stories high–
an abstraction of
lines, shapes, shadows,
points, stars, satellites,
and so many colors–
I always miss my exit, too
entranced.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
sewer reek,
and unruly trash piles
clashing aromas–
exhaust, human bodies, cigarette,
and sizzling street food.
I crane my neck, a moment paused,
damp armpits and achy feet at a crosswalk-crush,
to take in a traffic maw,
angry gash of light and motion gaping between city cracks,
and the silver spoon moon above pinned to gauzy haze clouds,
impassive.

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Logos everywhere
blinking, blazing sheet cakes advertising
assault from every angle in the night-city,
rendered romance, just a twinkle reflected upon the Han,
Consume life! Cranked maximum the messages shimmer before my dizzy pupils,
dilated to catch every last drop
before I’m gone
and feel the loss
like a stone in my stomach,
sinking down,
down to the bottom of the
Han.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
but it’s
way too personal, and anonymous.
Atoms of humanity packed tight,
particles thick as peanut butter,
repulsive.
The girl breathing my air,
hip wedged against me,
pressed so close
I could kiss her on the subway.
Stares, eyes carefully blank, past
my face.

I want to write a poem about Seoul,
absurd reality.
The street vomit stains
and homeless grandmas
searching hunchbacked under
unfathomable burdens
of Han and precariously stacked cardboard,
accumulated in just one day
of a throwaway modernity.
Salty swell, wave and undertow,
Heavy drops of water fall
from unprepared eyelashes.
Rapture and
revulsion.

I want to write a poem about Seoul.
Rocky, Bukhansan
at sentinel post.
The Seoul of a country,
immaculate twinkle and hum, so far off.
A red, white, blue, and black banner waving
welcomes spent legs to summit of ice and stone,
whereupon you cannot hear the city-beat,
over the hush, hush, hush of the
wind.


Sarah Muscutt is currently a teacher’s assistant at Missoula Valley Montessori School in Missoula, Montana. From 2016-2017 she was an elementary school ETA at Gwangcheon Elementary School in Hongseong, Chungcheongnam-do. Sarah will soon begin a Master’s of Education at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.

Footnotes

  1. Bul geum: literally means “fire friday” and references the excitement of the end of the week, when many people go out for fun and let off steam.