Apprentice's last touch *

Published by Visions International magazine

            for Mother, who saw

 

            Master, don't sleep.

I just touched up

the red

on the canvas

and the portrait blinked.

It's not the candle flicker,

I swear.

You told me not to change the cheeks,

but the mouth was a desert

and the eyes lost.

A daub of carmine woke them up.

 

            Master, come see:

the painting now breaths, indeed

no oil mask, but a man - drawn to break free.

His eyes pierce through my apprentice robe,

my borrowed mustache,

my chopped braids,

my little ruse to learn your craft.

His thoughts come forth,

rub cheeks with fire,

No lad are you, girl,

so sweet your brush, so clean your call,

what muse your shadow feathers on my brow ablaze?

 

            Master, please dream,

forget my prayer.

My name I'll empty and be gone.

I'll rinse all brushes,

press in alms of linseed oil and turpentine,

air aprons clean tonight

and part

before sky blues are haloed blond.

My haste please do forgive.

Too little room is here allowed

near your future glory for my humble thirst

to thrive.                                                                                   

 

* At the beginning of the 16th century a mysterious apprentice, believed by some to be a muse in disguise, was rumored  to have brushed by the studios of painters who were later to become masters of the Western Renaissance.

After visiting Unjusa

After visiting Unjusa

for me, Korea

is the sound of a bell: a dragon released

by people moving, toning, dancing together,

             full hearted runners

                        toward one human core,

messengers in rocks dreaming, chisel faced

past to future

            born of one thousand bows,

innocence

of heart and trust,

rounding the old

world tortoise back with bones and tears.

 

Perhaps pain and purpose were both lifted

when its body was vaulted to house

                        hermit, priest, shaman, offers

food for the hungry

of light           

so listen to the ondol river washing its hollows

- adjourn fear, converse with death –

for reborn

ancient prayers, like roots,

guide searching souls, young minds flowering

inner mountains, vision climbs.

 

The land turns temple when evening furrows ash, silk, flesh and ink:

melting crown and saber alike.

This, for me, is Korea: human ore

flagging the valley

as lanterns-perpetual,

            showing the way.

                                                                                                           

 

Note:  The undated Unjusa Temple and sacred site is believed to have been raised prior to a 15th century mention on a geographic record

References

  • toning, dancing together : reference to the two Greek words khoros, khoreia – transl. in English: choir, dance

  • full hearted runners: reference to the two Latin words: cor, currere - transl. in English: heart, run 

  • messengers: synonym to courier

The Trials

Published by Gwangju News International Magazine

April, 2015, pg 47

(Trial by fire and tears)

Stolen!

That morning

cracked in rooster’s beak

like shards

by his foe-sacked

kilns* where he had been…

 

Stolen: no doubt!

The fire limp

and hooves stamped in the clay

spoke of war’s price:

with their master potter,

that night, the village paid.

 

For he, prized prisoner,

was taken

to foreign lands,

far shores. Now villagers

-- chins hanging low--

his fate bemoaned.

 

Wind shaken stood his cottage, 

door framed, his pale-eyed

wife held their son back.

“He is too little,” cried.

But, at twelve years old, the lad

had gleaned enough  to dare and try.

 

He tugged her apchima for days.

“Allow me, eomeoni to light the kiln,

allow. To abeogi in my dream

last night I promised.”

She then smiled and wiped her eyes.

“Just one time, son.”

 

(Trial by water and earth)

            So digging days long by the river

he found the soggy best,

scooped and lumped it back uphill

with hands like abeogi’s

--clay gloved by the yeast of earth--

forming, throwing it until just right.

 

 

 

One half he wheeled and then

its open twin in sameness joined,

made vessel whole

while at the seam, the edge em battled,

like his village struggled to survive

the war, close in: before and after. Heal.

 

In sleep then the boy slipped

with tired arms

on grasses spent and bent.

When dusk awakened ,

with hungry eyes

his pot he met:

           

            like pregnant eomeoni’s belly now

the top had slightly sagged,

yet mattered not.

Next eve the wood sparked,

candeled ready, in the domed uphill,

then crackled hot.

 

(Trial by wind and fire)

            Oven ablaze

the wind approved.

Its dragon tongue torpedoed

through the chambered kiln,

around the pot war waging

upon war itself.

 

All night the rumble raged

like furies at some shore,

fused, sealing  powers’ trial

onto the mortal clay

by cinders bellowed

and translucent orbed .

 

As a new day the rooster open laid,

the villagers circled the son,

helped hoist his ware

out from hot smoke,

in wonder wiped its barrel size

and sagging --seen as proof--

 

to gasps gave way,

to tears of hope.  

From ashes’ cover,

the youngest now

stood up:

a master potter of their  own.

                                                 

* At the end of  Korea’s Imjin War (1592~98)

apchima (Korean):  apron

eomeoni (Korean): mother

abeogi  (Korean): father

To Christoforo Columbus -- before dawn*

Published by New Millennium Writings - 2016 Anthology --

with Honorable Mention in the 39th NMW Poetry Contest

Christoforo, can you hear me if I whisper?

It is late and clad bones need sleep.

I know you’re watching though --

even if they think you’re dream ruled --.

Can you see me?

Si, si, la Donna ti visita. (1)

I commune with the seas now conquered, unconquered,

                                                conquered, unconquered

            ….wasn’t that what the waves called to you?

 

Some grow their crest high

land and never leave. Yet roiling waters do

christen when voyaged, imprint with another power

gust giving, restless, fraternal.

You heard them prattle and pray

over fish bones, wish bones,

                                    fish bones, wish bones

            ….isn’t that what whitens us?

 

No wonder that pilgrims seek to root their faith

if they hold, a forest protects their halo, carries the cargo

across and if you knew the path of this pregnancy,

Christoforo, you may have not left

new world expectant, delivery, delivered

                                    delivery, delivered

            …wasn’t that how the sea curled around you?

 

When the shots aimed farther,

and treading, you asked where

Where are you, God?

stared at the compass dance,           

West? then lost again, Where are you… where

where are you...are you

            …wasn’t that what the tide was also searching?

 

 

Remember, Christoforo, I have but this candle

to carry us through the night.

Can you see flame forward

years bilge from shipping flesh, gun, gold, history rising

following smoke masts, enslaving, unslaving,

                                    enslaving, unslaving,

            …..wasn’t that what the foams foretold?

 

They called freedom, but she was not ready to adorn,

shores, not your nor mine -- blood cannot be washed --

only birth righted, heart brushed

by deeper loss or gain, five hundred spokes or more

in years wheeling , decoding, encoding,

                                    decoding, encoding

            …did you see their scroll exacting the mist?

 

And what is left, right?

Peace, Christoforo, off-springs shall peruse these sands

cover your ears, fill in your footsteps --wine of pardon--

while pride on nightmares mounted

be loosened away, scatter and salt,

                                    scatter and salt           

            …for waves to heave, deepen their sigh.

 

So rest now by the dawn’s oar

mio caro figlio (2) ,

I just needed to touch you,

christen you afresh

in ardour married calm, a rdour…marri ed…ca lm

                                    a…ma(e)ri…ca…

                                                                                                                         

 Notes:

*  Christoforo Columbus had been bed ridden with high fever for days, on the way back to Spain from his first voyage to the New World. During a stormy night, the young aid providing him with daily food and fresh water heard fragments of conversation and moans from the Captain’s cabin. Soon after, rumors spread on the ship  about this as having been a visitation from his mother, who  -- that very night-- gave her son, Christoforo, the strength to survive.

 

  1. (Italian) The lady visits you.

  2. (Italian) My dear son