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oreo bingsu!

christian m patterson


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for Bre, Cho Cho, Morgan, Suzanna, Kiara, Char 


Sinchon!

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on the third-floor, smoking balcony!
of a coffee shop over looking a main street,!
a teenage girl is smoking!
and her little brother is also smoking!

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a white woman is studying Korean!
she passes as Korean much better than I do!
at least from behind, !
due to her straight black hair!

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Sinchon 2!
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I am looking at a church!
that is not a mega church !
but someday could be!

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it is across the street!
from a pharmacy!
that’s lit like a hospital!
and has seating like the DMV!
where you pick a number!
and wait!

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the pedestrians walk past!
holding umbrellas!
that aren’t open!
but are ready to be!

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1


Guam!

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your ears, with rounded white earrings,!
are two symmetrical butterflies!
on the side of your head!

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your irises are dark, making your pupils look like!
they’re all your eyes are, like you’re always!
looking at the moon, and excited!

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I ask where you’re from!
you say ‘Guam’!
I say ‘I would like to go there’!
you say ‘it’s very hot’!

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2


Early Summer in Seoul!
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after Rilke!

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You can still see the color contrast!
that Spring air creates. The technicolor !
pearls would still glow neon if!
I was looking at them or not!

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In the garden, spring still lives!
itself into the plants at night,!
when the pearls are brightest!
But during the day, the ghosts!

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of many ancient civilizations!
evaporate from the concrete!
and tar the pearls and buildings!

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and the plants. Then, all at once!
the sky turns dark, and everything!
becomes different from each other!

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3


Yonsei!

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I walk to Ministop and hear birds!
I can’t see the birds but I hear them!
What do you look like, birds?!

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I can only imagine the birds!
that I’ve already seen, in America!

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you don’t - and can’t - realize!
that nothing is the same because!
all you’ve known is the air above this Ministop!
and if you knew more,!
you wouldn’t know you know more!

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4


Sindorim!

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I walk with a Hong Kongese woman named Molly!
we pass a blond guy!
I say ’do I stand out as much as he does?’!
She laughs, covers her mouth, and nods!

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Molly and I take the subway!
we walk to a small restaurant !
where you grill your own meat!

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an old couple and their son work here!
the son is the first Korean I’ve seen with tattoos!
Molly tries to speak to him!
he laughs and says ‘no, can’t handle English’!

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Molly points at the meat!
that the family next to us is eating!
and says ‘we’ll have that’!

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we walk around Sindorim!
I say ‘you know what we should do?’!
she says ‘find somewhere with WiFi’!
I was thinking ‘get ice cream’!
but we can find WiFi too!

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I get an ice cream bar at GS25!
she tries to call her friend who lives in Seoul!

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we walk through the hallway to the Subway!
there are Grecian sculptures!

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on the subway I offer her gum!
she chews it, and I hold my hand to her!
so I can throw away the wrapper!
she laughs, covers her mouth,!
and puts the wrapper in her purse!

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5


Bongeunsa!

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I try to meditate in a room of 10,000 Buddhas!
oscillating fans hang from the ceiling!
none of them oscillate towards me!
I have never sweat this much, ever!

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I focus on one of the 10,000 Buddhas!
then look at the floor, but I can’t focus!
because I’m too aware of the tourists around me!
and then I’m aware I’m a tourist too!

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I open my eyes, rub away the sweat!
and no longer focus on that specific Buddha,!
but rather, all of them!

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I go to the temple gift shop and buy cheap candles!
the cashier warns me they’re ‘for dead people’!
I pretend I already knew that!

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6


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Ewha Yeoja Daehaggyo!
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She is on the subway when I get on!
and she transfers at the next stop, like I do!

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She is wearing tall white heels that look like!
heeled tennis shoes from a distance,!
due to mild dirt discoloring!

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She is wearing a white t-shirt!
and acid wash short jorts!
her hair is bleached blonde,!
but that color of blonde,!
where someone has black hair,!
and it comes out kind of orange!
she is wearing red lipstick!

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She gets off the subway!
a stop before me!
at the woman’s university!

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7


Tibetan Book of the Dead!

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I’m waiting to dry my laundry in a humid basement!
I’m reading about how ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’!
isn’t a very accurate translation of the title on wikipedia!
Three days ago my dorm mate switched rooms without telling me!
I don’t know why!
No one is picking up their finished laundry!
I go back to my dorm room!
I hang up my laundry to dry!
on my ex-roommate’s side of the room!

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8


Hongdae 1!

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stars reflect on your face!
and they are your face!
people are up all night here!
I think I’ll train myself to do the same!
so we can sleep at the same time!

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Hongdae 2!
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on the second floor of a dessert restaurant!
I am eating bingsu, and you walk in!

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I’ve seen you more than once,!
which seems like a miracle!
but your blonde and pink hair helps!

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when I see you, I think of the song!
‘U Remind Me’ by Usher!

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Hongdae 3!
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There’s this feeling when you are!
at a concert and the instruments!
blend into one united sound!
but you close your eyes and notice!
the individual instruments!
and once you do that!
for every instrument!
they blend together again!
and you don’t forget where!
the music comes from but!
it doesn’t matter and for a moment!
the sound that has no beginning!
and end becomes your mind!
and your mind is all you are!

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Cheonggyecheon!

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I look for a direction to walk!
Mcdonald’s and 7-Eleven compel me!
I walk towards them and feel lost!

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a couple blocks ahead!
I see the refurbished stream!
used in promotional brochures!

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I take some photos!
and although it’s dusk,!
my camera reflects light!
from the skyscrapers,!
making it seem like daytime!

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the river is part of a Disneyland ride!
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I walk from one segment to the next!
with bridges above dividing the segments!

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one segment is all tourists!
taking photos!
and the next is all couples!
sitting and holding hands!

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the tourists and the couples!
do not overlap!
as if they’ve always been there!
and always will be there!

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Jongno!

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If authenticity exists, then dance!
is the only real way to express it!

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the way you walk is a dance!
the way you sip coffee is a dance!

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the letters you write!
are blueprints of your body!
dancing in a such a precise way!
that can never be fully copied!

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Pyongyang!

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Pyongyang is a non-literal island!
It’s surrounded by rivers!
and clings to land by a thread of mountains!

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Opposed to southern Korea,!
where Shamanism is inherited,!
northern Koreans become shamans!
by letting spirits possess them!

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for an unknown reason, I feel hopeful about this!
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I look at Pyongyang on Google Maps!
I switch it from map view to ‘Earth view’!
for a moment, the map is black!

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A brown brick building in the hills!
looks like a red brick building because it’s dusk!
I guess things change color !
at different times of the day!

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night time changes the shapes of cities!
into color, and no-color, and then smears color!
and no-color into something you feel but don’t see!

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blue lights from a night club!
make this street’s night seem like morning!

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I want to be photos of skylines at night!
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Seodaemun!

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1!
I take the city bus!
that stops in the median!
lane of a half-regular street,!
half-freeway!

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I go to the health clinic!
I need to be tested for TB!
I pull a number, wait,!
and give them ₩4,000!

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then walk up a narrow!
stairwell, filled with natives,!
show the doctor’s my papers!
and get my body scanned!

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2!
I sat outside!
the dorm building steps!
on a weekend night—!
it was late!

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you took the elevator!
up from the GS25!
in the dorm basement,!
and saw me sitting!

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we stayed up talking!
in a courtyard surrounded!
by skyscrapers. the night!
air feels different here!

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the sun started rising!
and the other students!
started coming home!
from the bars, drunk!

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I went to bed, and the sky!
was bright, and I learned how!
different time can move!
in different places!

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13


Paju City!

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Rows of fermented plates!
and identical apartments!

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squeaky floorboards and a pile of shoes!
an instant coffee machine smelling strong !
enough to mix with fatty pork and sweat!

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I said I’d never write a poem!
with the word ‘heart’ in it, until I realized!
my heart acts as my mind acts!

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The thoughts in your blood are heavenly!
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one of the saddest things I’ve seen!
is a South Korean train station!
with a darkened gate labeled:!
‘평양 Pyongyang’!

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I saw the world a little differently!
when I learned double negatives!
don’t make a positive, in many languages!

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In Korea, the hot/rainy days!
are called ‘열대야 (yeoldaeya)’!
which means ‘Tropical Night’!

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on the night I’ll leave!
I will peel my eyes off of themselves!
as if everything we see is a filter!
that we stick to our eyeball repeatedly!

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I missed the fourth in my hometown again!
missed the exploding fruit, the roman candles!
rows of macaroni salad and mortars!
Mtn Dew tastes different here!

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14


the Hongdae Taco Bell at 4:00AM!

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I walked downstairs!
to a club called Club Buddha!
with three girls from my dorm!

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I saw a girl wearing black jorts!
and a cardigan around her waist!
She kept fanning herself with a buchae,!

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I danced with her a little bit!
I asked her name!
but I don’t remember it!

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an American soldier threw a stack of ₩1000 bills!
from the upstairs bottle service to the dance floor!
the three girls I came with were pairing off!

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the bottom button of my shirt came off!
so I left the club to buy a t-shirt!
from one of those Hongdae t-shirt shops!
but none were open so I told my friends!
I was going to Coffee Bean to get coffee!
and I did, but it closed at 3AM,!
so I had to leave early!

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I walked to 7-Eleven and bought paper!
used for handwritten resumes!
and then walked to Taco Bell!

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it’s raining off and on!
I feel self-conscious about my missing button!
half of the Taco Bell is white, which is unusual!
I’m the only sober one here!
an American woman keeps telling!
a drunk Korean man!
‘But I love teaching English!’!

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I order food and sit down!
I write this poem on the resume paper!
a group of Ameribros walk in!
one says ‘woah, white people’!

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the English teacher storms out!
and the drunk Korean man!
looks deeply confused!
one of the Ameribros looks at me!
and says ‘seriously?’ under his breath!
presumably because he wanted my table!

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I wonder what the girl from the club!
is doing right now!
I would have asked for her number!
but she didn’t seem interested!

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It’s now 4AM!
It’s raining, and I will walk home!
I wonder why I’m alone!
I wonder why I feel compelled to be alone!

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Tom N Toms Coffee!

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I’ll miss your blonde hair,!
the kind of blonde that isn’t blonde,!
like when someone with black hair!
tries to bleach it blonde!

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the way you wear a hat!
and then bunch your hair!
underneath it, into a hairnet,!
with a big black bow!
on top of it!

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I’ll miss saying !
‘안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)’!
and you saying ‘hello’ softly!
then I say!
‘감사합니다 (kamsahamnida)’!
and you say ‘thank you’ softly!

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today, I say!
‘this is my last day in Korea’!
and you arc your arm!
with your finger pointed!
and say ‘home?’!

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you touch your heart!
and make your eyebrows look sad!
and I feel the way you look!

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saying goodbye forever on a subway!

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saying goodbye forever on a subway!
is one of the weirdest things!

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you are sitting next to someone!
and they transfer to another line!
so you say goodbye!
and you keep moving on the same tracks !
as if you hadn’t said goodbye!

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or you are sitting next to someone!
and you get off and walk home!
so you say goodbye!
and you keep walking the same sidewalks!
as if they aren’t still on the subway!

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it seems more natural!
saying goodbye forever on a subway!
because you are aware!
that both of you are traveling!
in different directions!

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but for a still unknown reason!
it is less upsetting!
to think of it in terms of!
a person leaving and a person left!

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Christian M Patterson!
follow on twitter: @christianizcool

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