—Seoul subway, 2014
If a man stands alone
If he peers out the window
If he peers as the subway crosses the River Han
If the sun bathes him in light
as the train emerges from a tunnel
Consider first steps toward touching…
Was boldness built up
like birds snapping branches into bunches
to build nests in Spring?
Or was it pent up before I arrived
like so much gunpowder in an old sweaty
stick of dynamite?
Adjusting your weight in perfect pivot
like a martial artist,
you, a vapor, a fog slinking past the people
and blotting out the light.
Ode to that first step,
that simple lift of sole!
I envy your momentum,
the precise motions
that had been molded
in your mind.
Did you fixate on me from shadow
like fox eyes on a hen house?
Like a serpent of biblical beginnings,
you soft-footed my direction,
so no one would see that touch
from those spineless hands,
hands that knew nothing of labor—
you were just a student
when the factories bloomed,
plumes of smog from smokestacks
just after the Korean War.
Covered in that oversized coat,
a taxi hat low over your brow,
your frail, sickly frame,
two wet gray eyes peering
from within the shadow of your brim.
Where did it begin—
how your hands made it
from there to here? What algorithm
did you compute,
what gruesome calculation did you punch
before you reached out to touch me?