Lee is the author of This Many Miles From Desire. He was kind enough to greet me on my first evening here in Seoul. Meeting for the first time in the country where we were both born, and both abandoned was interesting. We are searching–separately, and somehow together with all the others–for a way to make sense of the missing…
This is from Lee’s poem, Korean adoptee returns to Seoul:
…a Korean adoptee smelling Seoul
for the first time in the thirty years?
The first night back, I dream about birth
rights and death dates, birthdates and love
lost somewhere over the Pacific.
The first night back, I dream in that hotel room
behind the temples about a birth scenario.
I dream about the woman whose body bore me,
right here in this city thirty years ago, where
that same vendor flapped the newspaper
at the flies on the durian, eighteen years after
the Korean War when Russians took the north
Americans took the south, below the thin line
that served as the new border. Maybe
she was thirty and I took too much from her
busy life and she could not imagine death
so she left me on the steps of a church.
Maybe she was sixteen, and
I was heavy on her heart and on her back
so heavy that in her dreams, I could sink
quietly, in a lake.
Have I mentioned this to you?
Have I mentioned how downtown Seoul
collides with the horizon, how I could smell
pieces of Fresno even here at the barbecued squid
vendor’s five foot business, how close Pyongyang
feels when I am in Fresno among the blossoms,
the cement, and the hopeful ones like me and you,
counting on tomorrow being good?
Have I mentioned how Seoul is a city
in which I have loved and been loved, left and been
left, a city in which I found green plants raging
out of the earth, trees reaching toward the sun
with such vertical precision you’d think God,
yes, God had been involved in the planting?
I should mention how the sun tries to blaze there
like the sun tries to blaze here, how the son
finally rests having been home and smelled the city
and its possessions: the garlic fields, the rice fields,
and the woman’s hands mixing
the kimchi into the egg
How his heartbeat sounds as if it is saying life
life life life deep like the water
that connects these two cities
and the light breeze that blows in between.