Leaving Seoul: 1953

We have to bury the urns, 
Mother and I. We tried to leave them in a back room, 
Decoyed by a gas lamp, and run out

But they landed behind us here, at the front gate.
It is 6th hour, early winter, black cold:
Only, on the other side of the rice-paper doors

The yellow ondol stone-heated floors
Are still warm. I look out to the blue
Lanterns along the runway, the bright airplane.

Off the back step, Mother, disorganized
As usual, has devised a clumsy rope and shovel
To bury the urns. I wonder out loud

how she ever became a doctor. 
Get out, she says Go to your father: he too 
Does not realize what is happening. You see,

Father is waiting at the airfield in a discarded U. S. Army
Overcoat. He has lost his hat, lost
His father, and is smoking Lucky's like crazy. . .

We grab through the tall weeds and wind
That begin to shoot under us like river ice.
It is snowing. We are crying, from the cold

Or what? It is only decades
Later that, tapping the cold, glowing jars,
I find they contain all that has made
The father have dominion over hers.

More by Walter K. Lew

4/7/85

     Children shone in the front gate and put their hands together in the 
demon pavilion.
     Then they went up red-dusted steps toward the granite stupa, where they 
didn't hesitate to bow with their mothers.
     Thick white candles with reverse swastikas and rows of images on the 
ascending plinths of stone.
     I crouched under the temple, in the cool shadow, by the outdoor Nestlé's 
coffee dispenser—and was aroused when two women strode by in russet 
hanbok
     "Color of the dharma's robes," said monk Sôgu suddenly beside me.
     I followed him down the hill and sat on a log. There was a small lake and 
I was calm enough at last. . .to listen to my new uncle conduct the 
neighborhood's Bodhisattva orchestra, seated on folding chairs in the mud 
beside it.