Poem of the Week #11: Free Time

A rusted alarm clock announcing a lack of free time for poetry or any sort of NSCZach poem.
An old alarm clock that’s stuck in its ways. Photo by Monoar Rahman (https://www.pexels.com/photo/time-alarm-clock-alarm-clock-100733/).

Introduction

I feel like I’ve been spoiled. For the last few years I was working as a freelancer. But not a very ambitious one.

I would hunt down freelance work on job boards from time to time, but always just sought out enough work to scrape by. This meant that I had quite a bit of free time. That’s how I go so deep into my own personal brand of blogging (see A Blogger’s Beowulf for what I mean). I also wrote a few novels that still need revision and editing and penned more poetry than I know what to do with.

Recently, however, I’ve found that what I used to be able to do to scrape by with freelance work isn’t enough. The immediate consequence is that I’ve had to get back into the hunt for a “regular” job.

As I’m writing this I have a fairly regular bit of casual employment through a temp agency that generally sees me working four days a week. My placement is about an hour away by bike (an hour and a half if I need to ride the bus). I’m also still (trying) to keep up with this and my Beowulf blog, and working as the editor for the podcast Fanthropological.

Not to mention November is National Novel Writing Month. So it’s the perfect time to finish off a series I’d started a couple of years ago so that I can finally get the story out there.

Obviously, it’s something of a luxury to have the time to even entertain doing these other things. Especially since I’ve got the same bills to pay that I’ve always had (and a few more) and I’m not making any money doing any of them. And so on the one hand I have no place to complain about not having enough time or freedom.

But on the other hand, I can’t help how I feel. And after growing so used to having that free time while freelancing, its disappearance is pretty deeply felt.

Even to the point where I could get a poem out of it.

No More Me

There is no me anymore,
just the body that held me before.
I am an outline filled in by different hands;
hands that smeared my careful plans.

They were all so perfect then,
at a distance, not looming over
what is now not mine to cover.

But all the same.
The die is cast,
the line is wrote,
and I am not me.

I am just oil and skin waiting
to become many a mote.


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Fiction Friday: Heading East, Looking West — Chapter 6 Part 1

An open book of fiction ripe for Fiction Friday!
An open book somewhere outside. Photo by MabelAmber: https://pixabay.com/en/book-pages-open-book-literature-1616087/

Thanks for checking out this post! If this is your first time looking into Heading East, Looking West, you might want to go back to Chapter 1. If you’re all caught up (or just adventurous), though, then read on.

Recap

Last week’s post wrapped up the month of December with a slice of Canada for Zeke: a Christmas dinner with Shaun and his family. Over the course of the December chapter, Zeke’s relationship with Ji-Hye has deepened. So much so in fact, that they’re dating in all things but name.

Summary

Zeke and Ji-Hye wake up after a night spent together in Zeke’s apartment. They’ve spent the last two days together, and this scene probably isn’t the first time they’ve expressed their feelings so physically.

From here on out this story doesn’t shy away from sex — however clumsily written it might be. 😳

Anyway, if sexual content is something you’re not comfortable reading, then you’ll want to be careful going forward.

Though I’ll be sure to point out the sexual content on a part-by-part basis from here on so that if you are sensitive to that kind of content you can skim the parts that include it and dive deep into those that don’t.

All that said, I hope you enjoy this part of Heading East, Looking West!

January – Part 1

A woman in bed like Ji-Hye in South Korea in the Fiction novel Heading East Looking West by NSCZach.
A woman in bed in a rather spacious apartment. One much bigger than Zeke’s. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/narisovana/6812025685/

A gust of treeless wind rushing past the balcony window coaxed his eyes open. But Zeke refused to put his open eyes to any use other than looking at the apartment roof. Its tile motif appeared intricate as he stared into its grain. Lines moved together, alongside, into, through each other. They crossed after all of that.

Angles were made. Zeke thought back to one of his professors, the man’s name forgotten, but his lectures still fresh. “Angles and all of their possibilities. Momentum, thrust. Thrust.” That guy’s storied shift from physics to English really was plausible. He closed his eyes. Stretched his hands over his head and pointed his toes. They pressed out from under the sheets after they pulled them below his chest. Their lowering revealed her beside him.

Ji-Hye’s skin matched the under sheet to such a degree that Zeke found himself staring before he remembered. Her face was turned away, the long dark hair that refused to be brown but looked almost navy in certain light was all he saw of her.

Looking closer, he noticed that a single ear protruded from the dark mass, like an island that was all promontory. Its lines curved and rallied, ran and swayed. He could not look away.

His hands were still over his head. He drew up his legs and tried to pull himself into a seated position, the blankets bunching over his legs and lap. His higher vantage gave him view of her face. Eyelids closed over doe eyes, lips closed together like an unopened rose, and a nose that, even now, pulled his eyes back up to hers. That nose especially. Zeke smiled. He stretched and rose.

Maybe last night wasn’t the best we’ve had. But definitely a good way to leave things off for a week. Zeke recalled how she had wanted to go with him at first, and how he had slowly talked her down from that. None of the other teachers or staff know. They can’t know. If we both wound up talking about going to Japan over the break it’d be too much of a coincidence for all those gossipers to pass up. Besides, we both had a pleasant trip to “Pangkuk” over the last two days. He grinned at the memory of her making the same joke the night before.

He brushed a hand against her hair. So like silk when it’s felt from top to bottom. He watched his fingers interrupt the strands, opening up brief pathways to the nape of her neck. He watched the blankets under her arms rising and falling as he drew the dark lines of her hair into different positions. All of these lines bend. Though things like jets and ravens are supposed to go straight. Funny how language works. He smelled his fingers. A faint odour of pomegranates and grapes lingered on them.

Zeke closed his eyes. The smoothness of her skin and the way that the water droplets had looked like stars adorning her naked flesh after their shower widened his smile and brought his hand to his lap. Her hair made the cloth at his crotch seem rough, uncouth, in comparison. He opened his eyes, hand still in place.

Zeke lowered himself back to the bed and then inched toward Ji-Hye. He nuzzled against her and put a hand on her shoulder. The curve of her hip reminded him of the softness of her breasts.

His touch seemed to give her life as she stirred under his palm. His other hand was held lower, pressed between his front and her back. Zeke raised the blankets as she turned towards him.

She opened her eyes and spread her lips into a smile before speaking. Zeke was dazzled by the whiteness of her teeth. “Good morning.”

He shifted himself across the bed so that he lay closer beside her. He brushed his lips against hers. “Good morning.” Her eyes filled his sight, but he knew that she was smiling. His own lips pressed upwards. One side raised higher than the other. He pressed his hips into hers.

“Oh, still ready for more, Jay-key?” She blinked and when her lids reopened they stopped short, hooding her eyes. Her lips drew outward, deepening her smile. She hummed. One of Zeke’s hands had moved to the small of her back, the other was amidst her hair. He narrowed his eyes and brewed a small growl in his throat. Ji-Hye giggled.

He kissed her cheek, and felt the blood rushing through it. So much motion in her, though she’s laying still. He moved his hand from the small of her back to the flat of her stomach. He ran a single finger along her panty’s elastic border, straddling skin. Zeke kissed her cheek again and then nuzzled his way toward her neck. His kisses ran down its side.

“I don’t leave until tomorrow.” His voice carried on a breath from between puckered lips. He withdrew from her shoulder, brushing his cheek against hers along the way. He tilted his lips towards the fray of lines that was her ear. “We could. Maybe once more.”

Ji-Hye turned toward him. Her grin showed her teeth. White, clean. Perfect. Small. He smiled broadly, entranced by her teeth, showing his own.

“Mm. Jay-key.” She pressed a kiss into his forehead. Then she raised her head and Zeke slid his hand between it and the bed beneath them. Zeke drew a kiss from her lips. Her mouth held a puckered, but parted, shape after he pulled away. Her eyes looked like gentle woods, the skin of her cheeks like snow drifts reflecting a sunrise.

Zeke drew her face closer with one hand and continued tracing the edge of her panties with the other. He brushed her nose, and then her lips, with his. “Ji-Hye…” rode out on one of his exhalations. Ji-Hye’s free hand found his shoulder and then draped over his back before crawling up to and into his own hair.

Her pupils swam in his own. “Jay-key.” Ji-Hye’s eyelids fluttered as she spoke.

He sealed her lips with his. His tongue wrapped about hers in the little space between them. He felt himself grow harder and press into her thigh as her tongue started to circle his.

He savoured her taste, the feel of her teeth over and under his tongue. If only kimchi tasted so good! He swallowed when they pulled apart, and pressed his fingers underneath the elastic of her panties as their looks clasped together. She sighed into the space between them.

Her hand traipsed from behind his head, finger by finger down his back, until it rested on his hip. She grinned at the blush that Zeke felt radiating through his cheeks.

“So you are sure that I cannot come with you, Jay-key?” Her hand sat on his hip, fingers dangling over a cheek. “I do not know, what I will do, for that whole week.” She took her hand from his hop and brushed it past the bulge in his underwear, as if each finger were reluctant to leave. Two of Zeke’s fingers were pinned to her hip by her panties’ elastic waist. He looked down, briefly, but in that second Ji-Hye lifted her head and leaned it toward his ear. She hummed a single note and sustained it while her fingers made a second pass.

Zeke pressed his hips into Ji-Hye’s. Her hand escaped to his chest. “Damn, Ji-Hye.” Zeke used his upper hand to bring her face close to his. “Your eyes are like rubies rolling down an infinite slope.” He ignored the puzzled look that flickered across it. “Your skin is so soft it shouldn’t be allowed.” A third finger joined the other two. “And your lips,” He plucked a kiss from them. “your lips are like a sweet, juicy peach.”

Her eyes flashed. “So I can come with you?” She grinned, and her look changed to one that Zeke remembered from the night before, and several others before that, when the conversation turned to her joining him. Zeke kept his brow straight. She puffed out her cheeks and pulled her eyebrows down. Zeke heard a rumbling in her throat.

He grinned and slipped in a kiss to her nose. He laughed when her eyes grew wider and a giggle broke from her lips. She closed her mouth quickly, refilled her cheeks and pulled her brows together again.

“Nope. And you already know it.”

Ji-Hye persisted in her look for a few seconds more. She’s not pulled away entirely. I like where this is going. Zeke held his eyes, brows, and lips steadily flat. His fingers were still, tingling at the edge of her pubic hair. He could see her lips quavering. He pulled his eyes back into hers. That sound she’s making.

He lowered a hand from her face to her ribs. He brushed her skin so gently that he could feel her side’s downy hairs following his touch. He thought he heard something stifled. He brushed more rigorously, letting each finger dance along her side at its own pace.

Laughter rolled out, rumbling from her stomach. Zeke felt the force of each laugh on his hands.

He grinned and slid his other hand to her open side. He leaned over her, the fingers of both hands fluttering over her ribs. He smiled down into her eyes. Each time they opened amidst her giggles they glowed like embers. Zeke could feel their heat, fanned as it was by laughter.

Zeke skimmed a foot down the length of her leg. His toes caught the blanket along the way. They pulled it off and Zeke brushed his foot along hers before draping his calf over hers. Throughout the maneuver he held her eyes and kept with his tickling as her giggling subsided. But before she could shift herself so as to block his hands Zeke moved his leg from her calf to the space that she had left between hers. He held his weight a hair’s breadth above her, his eyes on hers.

Gradually, he rested on folded legs and ran his hands along her sides, tracing the hourglass that hips, waist, and breasts formed. How can skin be as smooth as marble, yet as warm as a campfire? He leaned forward, resting on hands set to either side of her, lowering. His eyes like azure jars caught the overflowing joy of her expression. He drank deeply of it as he brought his head just above hers. He felt became aware of himself straining against his boxers as he noticed that he was pressing his chest into her breasts. He could feel her breath on his cheek as he leaned in further. His lips pressed into the skin of her neck. Her arms rose to encircle him, her hands joined each other on his back. Her breath carried sound.

She ground her hips upwards and against his. “If I cannot go with you, give me something to keep me company.” She brushed her lips across his ear and then kissed his cheek with a smooth deliberate motion. “I will get too lonely if you don’t.”

Zeke pushed his hips into hers. He could feel heat radiating from between her legs through what was between his own. He whispered her name and moved his head back slightly to look into her eyes. “I’ll be sure to give something that will keep you warm for this week and more.” His lips locked onto hers and Zeke felt Ji-Hye’s push back against them. One of his hands traced a line down the inward curve of her breast and down to her waist, around the bump of her hip and to the elastic border of her panties. Ji-Hye’s hands gripped his hips. Her fingers worked under the elastic around his waist. She cupped a cheek and Zeke thrust his tongue past her lips.

She moaned over their crossing tongues. Her hands began to work around to his front, while his lifted the band of her panties. He felt her short firm hairs like summer grass under his fingers. He felt the air of the room run over his naked hips as a hand brushed against his tip. He rushed saliva into her mouth before pulling his lips away. “Promise that you’ll be good for the next week?” He knelt over her, both hands gripping her panties in a tableau threat to pull them off.

“Ya.” She placed her hands on his hips as she brought one leg back to the bed and kicked her panties off the other foot. Zeke knelt between her legs. Her lips puckered as she laid back onto the bed and straightened her legs. “I promise.”


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Fiction Friday: Heading East, Looking West — Chapter 5 Part 3

An open book of fiction ripe for Fiction Friday!
An open book somewhere outside. Photo by MabelAmber: https://pixabay.com/en/book-pages-open-book-literature-1616087/

Heading East, Looking West is a slow burn literary romance. If this is your first time reading it, I suggest that you start at the beginning here.

Recap

The feelings that Zeke has for Ji-Hye are mutual. And he couldn’t be happier!

Summary

After the deep dive into Zeke’s life in Korea, this week’s chapter is a Canadian break. Zeke meets with Shaun and his family for a Christmas dinner of sorts. They talk about working abroad and travelling. And once Shaun’s brothers catch wind of Zeke’s plan to go to Japan they give him all sorts of advice.

December – Part 3

A dreamy Christmas dinner served in South Korea when NSCZach wrote the fiction novel Heading East Looking West.
A dreamy Christmas dinner that might just be pure fiction. Image from http://photozou.jp/photo/show/202199/61612180.

“Hey, thanks for inviting me to this.” Zeke caught the door as he passed through it.

“Oh, hey you’re welcome. I don’t know if I’d have survived here as long as I have if I didn’t have you to bitch about things with.”

Zeke grinned though he knew Shaun did not. “Yeah. I hear that.” The streets and sidewalks were mostly clear, the streetlamps cast their yellowing light on only a few shoulders and heads, and on fewer cars. Neon signs and marquees lifted what was left of the night. “Itaewon’s pretty quiet tonight.”

“Yeah.” Shaun checked oncoming and passing traffic. “It seems weird, but it’s a little early for the bar crowd.” He flicked his cigarette into the curb before they reached the far side. “Even if that’s all that Itaewon is.”

“Well, it’s not entirely bars. I mean, there are a lot of restaurants out here.”

“Of course. Where do you think they go after they’ve drunk themselves silly? Only the sensible ones like us eat first.”

“So where are we meeting your brothers and mom?”

He jerked his head to the right. “In there. A little taste of Europe, tucked away in here. Their schnitzel is great. And they do a great set for Christmas dinner―” he made his voice nasal and deliberate, “―as I’ve been told by a very reliable source.” he stopped at the restaurant’s entrance. “Let’s just wait here for them. We’ll be easier to see.”

Zeke nodded. “So what happened with the co-teacher you were talking about on the train?” He stepped to Shaun’s side and stopped. His feet pointed to the road, but his head turned to Shaun.

He drew himself to his full height. “Right. Well, like I was saying, we were co-teaching the after school class again last Friday. So after class we started to talk, about the students and how the lesson went. The usual stuff, right? So then just as we were finishing things off I did it.” He checked to make sure that Zeke was paying attention. “I asked her if she wanted to do anything after school on Friday.”

“Nice. Sounds like you were probably pretty smooth.” Zeke’s hands were in his pockets, but his grin was up and out. He leaned against the wall behind them.

Shaun’s eyes lowered. “Yeah, well, I thought so too.”

“She didn’t turn you down did she?” Zeke leaned toward him, bending at the waist.

Shaun drew in a breath through one side of his mouth. He tilted his head to the same side and then drew his lips together. “Not exactly. She said that she was already busy with some other plans.”

Zeke made sure that his eyes were wide and that his jaw was lowered, but not too far lowered. “What? That’s just complete bullshit.”

“Yeah.” Shaun crossed his arms over his chest, covering the pockets in his jacket. The sound of his sleeves rubbing over each other served as his sigh. “Well, she did say that she might be free next weekend. So I’m going to ask her to go see something or take in a museum or something next week.” He looked over to Zeke once he had finished.

Zeke looked into the street. Hopefully my grin’s not as wide as it feels. He flattened his lips and hummed. How could it matter to tell him? Who could he tell who’d make a big deal of it? He brought his look and his voice back to Shaun. “That’s better than nothing, I suppose. At least she didn’t flat out refuse or anything like that. And now she doesn’t really have an excuse.”

“Yeah. Damn straight.” Shaun looked down the road, toward the exit of the subway station. He nodded. “Well. Here they are.”

Zeke peeled himself from the wall. Three people were walking towards them from the direction that Shaun had indicated. One was a woman, looking very much like a pear wrapped in a coat, scarf, shawl, and gloves. The others were men. One was taller than the woman, bespectacled, with short light hair. The other looked years younger and at a greater distance would have passed for a local with his dark hair. The two brothers talked amongst themselves, hands in jacket pockets, and kept only a couple of paces behind the woman. She looked directly at Shaun and Zeke.

Shaun waved. She waved back, and the brothers stopped their conversing to wave as well. A string of cars separated the two groups from each other until the lights changed. Shaun began to walk to the corner to which the newcomers were crossing. Zeke followed.

Shaun embraced his mother and his brothers, saying the name of each and asking a quick rhetorical nicety before turning to Zeke.

“Ma, Ben, David―this is Zeke, he’s another teacher and one of the few things keeping me sane here.”

His mother flicked her eyes to Zeke and then Shaun, and then back to Zeke, steadfast in smiling. “Nice to meet you, Zeke.” Zeke stepped into the group and took her offered hand. He smiled as their clasped hands bobbed up and down. The process repeated with the two brothers.

“So.” All eyes went over to Shaun. “Shall we head in? The reservation’s for seven and it’s what – six fifty?”

David pulled a phone from his pocket and flipped it open. “More or less―it’s six fifty-three.”

“Well. That shouldn’t be any sort of problem for the place.” Shaun looked into the restaurant’s window. Zeke’s eyes trailed his. The tables were bare, save for a couple seated beneath the place’s name printed on the window. Zeke’s attention became tangled in the lattice work across the building’s eaves on its way back to the group. “It’s practically empty.”

“Not surprising for a Thursday night.” Ben’s lips had barely moved but his face radiated mirth.

“Indeed.” Shaun cast another look through the window. “All right.” He looked back to mother, brothers, and Zeke. “Let’s go.”

As one unit they walked past the front window and then through the door.

“So how long have you been out here, Zeke?” Shaun’s mother walked beside him.

“A little more than three months. I started teaching in September, just like Shaun did.” He stopped before the empty host’s podium.

“But you weren’t at the same orientation?”

“No. My orientation was on the last weekend of August. My agency had me come in a bit before the semester really started.” The blonde waitress looked the five over. Zeke’s eyes fluttered into the light of her green gaze. He blinked to snuff the memory that her European face called up and turned back to Shaun’s mother.

“So it was a different agency, then, That makes some sense. Do you think that it was an independent agency?” Her stare put the question to Zeke as much as her words.

“Well. Hm.” Zeke let his look sink as he narrowed his eyes. “Yes.” He looked from her chin to her forehead. “Yes, I think so. I only ever communicated with one person. Maybe that’s just because he was assigned to me though?”

“Follow me.” The rest of the party looked toward the new voice. Shaun’s mother smiled lightly and widened her eyes at Zeke as if to say “I see” as the two followed the others.

Shaun held a chair out for his mother. She sat and voiced her thanks. David and Ben sat to her side and Shaun took the seat closest to the passageway between tables after Zeke slipped into the one beside the window.

“All right.” The hostess passed a menu to each of them and named all of the night’s specials. She watched each one of them in turn as she did so. “So, can I get anyone anything to drink?”

“Gin and tonic here.”

“A glass of the…” Shaun’s mom picked up the drinks menu and opened it to the proper page. “Valpolicella, please.”

“Rum and coke.”

“Root beer.”

Zeke cast about for something to drink. He faced toward Shaun’s mother. “May I?” She passed him the menu with a shrug and he leafed through it. “I’ll take a pint of the Stella.” He nodded at her reply and thanked her. He tucked the fold of paper into the carved wooden holder in the middle of the table as she reviewed their orders. Zeke avoided eye contact with her as the waitress confirmed his order.

Zeke turned to Shaun once she had left. “Any idea why we didn’t wind up in the same orientation here?”

Shaun leaned back. “Well. I think your timing was off. I had applied by the end of May, you applied when? July?” Zeke nodded. “There you go,” Shaun looked across the table to his mother. “That’s why we weren’t at the same orientation.”

“Well, that definitely makes good sense. Though you two are both working for the education office here in, well, in Incheon, right?” They both nodded. “Then it seems strange that they’d have two orientations.”

“Maybe they just don’t tell anyone about the one for late comers so that their numbers don’t shift dramatically that way.” Ben sat with his hands folded on the table’s edge.

David lowered his menu. “That seems dumb. Didn’t they go over the same things in both orientations?”

Zeke drew into mind what Shaun had told him of his training in the first few days of his being in Korea. All of the mingling, the mock classes, the rigorous and short sessions on public school policy and their contracts. That’s about the same as what I had, though his sounded like it had way more mingling. Not like I’ve seen any of those others around. We’re spread so far apart, it seems.

“Practically.” Zeke picked up and opened the menu that had been set before him. “As far as I can tell we both learned the basics of how to work with another teacher, what it’s like living in Korea, and all that. Were you guys shown anything else?” He kept his menu on the table, but still let his eyes search the faces around him between skims of entrée descriptions.

“No, that about sums it up for me too.” Shaun’s reply covered their silenced table. Zeke started to inspect the menu items of special interest more closely.

The roast goose looks best to me. The sides aren’t as great as the others, but I think I’m going to go with that. Zeke looked around the restaurant floor, the waitress was elsewhere. It should go well with the Stella, too. Lighter beer, lighter meat. Yeah. He passed over the other options. All right. Just a matter of waiting now. He closed his menu and then sat back. A pitcher of water and a stack of plastic cups had appeared on the table. Zeke grabbed them both. “Anyone else for water?”

“Sure.” David and Ben both nodded.

“All righty.” Zeke poured both glasses and passed them to the brothers. No one else has said anything so. He looked over the table and to the window sill beside him. Perfect. When he turned back to the table he noticed that both of Shaun’s brothers had their menus closed and their hands folded on top of them. “So what brings you guys to Korea? Just on a visit for the holidays?”

“Christmas is definitely a part of it. We’re also here as part of a little tour of Asia.” Ben gripped the table’s edge in each hand.

“Oh, really?” Zeke leaned in. He dropped his arms when he felt his elbows touch the table, Shaun’s mother a permanent in his peripheral.

“Yeah. We’ve already been to Japan, spent a few days over there, and then we’re here in Korea for a few. Visiting Shaun and all of that. Then over the weekend we’re going to Thailand.”

“And then back to Vancouver?”

“Yeah. Well, it’ll be back to Waterloo for me, actually.” Ben grinned. “You’re from Ontario too, right? Anywhere near KW?”

Zeke scrunched his face together so that his nose crumpled. “Sort of.” He relaxed. “I’m from a little town about,” he looked upwards, “three hours to the north east of that whole area.”

“Wow. How are you finding Korea, then? Isn’t it at all overwhelming?” Ben leaned into the table so that his chest pressed against it. Zeke noticed that his elbows rested on the table.

Zeke heard a “thanks” to his left. Then a feminine voice complemented a mumbling one. He turned toward the sounds. The waitress set his glass down in the middle of the table. “Thanks.” She raised a smile that looked like the result of long practice before passing Ben and David their drinks as well. “So are you all ready to order?”

The voice beside him was certain. “I think so.” Shaun looked around to the rest of the group. Each nodded in turn, and Zeke followed suit.

“Excellent. Okay.” The waitress tipped her tray and held it flat against her stomach as she pulled a notepad from the pocket of her apron and a pencil from a knot. She looked at David. Four orders were intoned before her polished smile turned again to Zeke. He peeked in the menu before replying, “the roast goose special. Please.”

She repeated the orders, and her looks, waiting for a nod each time. Her practiced smile opened as she heard his casual affirmation and saw his nod. He smiled back, and wrapped his hand around the bell of his glass.

“All right.” Shaun oscillated a look around the table to catch everyone in his vision. “A toast.” His expression pleaded with the face of each person sitting around the table. “To a great year here, to a great trip through Asia,” everyone had their glass raised. “And to a great dinner with great people.”

“Aye”s rubbed against “yeah”s and an “indeed” as glasses struck glasses. Zeke at first had his eyes on the table as he rose his glass to his lips, but then remembering where he was, settled a look into each of the four pairs of eyes as he drank. The slick liquid cascaded around his teeth, resonated in his cheeks and rolled over his tongue, delivering flavour to every taste bud in the spectrum. He kept his exhale quiet, but still settled the glass back on the table with his head cocked back, and his eyelids half drawn. So much better than Hite.

Zeke directed his voice to Shaun. “So you’re off to Thailand over the weekend, eh?” Shaun’s mother shared words with his brothers.

“Yeah. I thought I’d told you already.” He moved his glass so that the liquid swirled within it. “Going over to Bangkok for a few days. We’ll catch some sights, fly back to Seoul and then everything goes back to normal.”

“Cool.” Zeke smiled, and turned an ear to the others at the table.

“Didn’t you say you were going to Japan over your break?”

Zeke grinned. “Yeah. Not this weekend, but after I’m done with my winter break classes.”

“All right. So you won’t be around for the KFC Christmas, then.”

“Nope.” Zeke brightened further, straightened, and shook his head. He kept his glass’ stem nestled between his middle and ring fingers. a hand on the stem of his glass. “But I know all about that. If it’s that big a deal though, then maybe I’ll see some old displays around and get some pictures.” Zeke looked past Shaun to the entrance of the restaurant. He pursed his lips and let his focus drift. The conversation to his right began to draw his attention. “Didn’t your mom and brothers go there before they came here?”

“To Japan?” Zeke nodded, but Shaun’s eyes were held on his glass. “Yeah,” he looked over at Zeke and then to his brothers and mother. Words were tossed to them in a language that somehow sounded more foreign than the Korean that was constantly pitched around him and that he’d only recently started to catch in a few lucky instances.

French? He listened. Yeah, it’s French. Canada’s second language, yet it sounds more like Greek to me. Have I been here for that long already? Zeke saw Shaun and his mother facing each other, the cascading tongue poured between them. Ben and David looked over at Zeke

“So you’re going to Japan?” Zeke nodded, and felt himself grin though he had given his mouth no such command. “Then.” Ben turned to David. “What would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind, Dave?”

The youth wasted no time in being hesitant or thoughtful. “Bring enough money. Everything is way more expensive over there than it is here. I think that’s got to be the most important thing.”

“All right. I’d say.” Ben paused, and rested his chin on his raised and folded hands. “I’d say that the best thing to keep in mind is that eating cheap doesn’t mean eating badly there.” A pause. “But it seems like it’s the same thing here. You know bib-im-bap, right?”

Zeke tried to keep the image of a runny egg being dropped over stir fry from his mind. “Of course.”

“Well, you can get it here for a few thousand won, a few dollars, right? A big portion, nice tray loaded up with kimchi and pickles, too.” Ben leaned back and twisted his head toward the register and the kitchen door held within the counter’s circle. “It’s Korean fast food―but it’s actually good and cheap. It’s the same thing with Japanese food. You can eat decent meals if you just buy five hundred yen meals from convenience stores.”

“Yeah,” both of David’s hands were cupped around his glass. “Things like cutlets with rice and vegetables, a few sushi combinations too. They’re like pre-made bento boxes if you’re really lucky.“

Zeke drew his teeth together to make sure that his jaw wasn’t hanging low and tightened the muscles around his eyes to keep them from widening too far. “Awesome!” That’s as much as I should let fly, I think. He glanced over to Shaun’s mother, completely absorbed in conversation with the son she’d not seen for months. Although why should it even matter? He refocused on Ben and David. “That sounds really awesome. I’m guessing that these convenience stores are all over the place?”

Ben nodded. “Yeah. They’re everywhere, just like they are here, just like they are back in Canada.”

Zeke made his expression slate-like and gave a single nod. “Perfect. Is there anything else that I should know about?”

Ben looked over to David, their glances met and then returned to Zeke. “Well. You’ve probably seen some anime or Japanese movies, right? Like samurai films?”

Zeke gave a succession of short nods in agreement. “Yeah. I’ve dabbled.” He sipped at his beer.

“So then you’ve seen the importance that they put on things like honour? Dial that back just a little bit, and that’s what the real Japan is like. Manners are very important over there, especially coming from foreigners.”

David pulled up from his root beer. “They already think we’re dogs, so if you’ve got some sort of respect for them or can at least pretend that you do it’ll be easier for you.”

“Definitely. But they’re not all that down on foreigners. Some embrace them.” Ben leaned across the table, away from his mother, who was still trading words with Shaun. “The women especially―it’s kind of a fashion statement to be seen with an attractive foreigner.”

“Even an average looking foreigner―remember that guy from the temple in Kyoto?”

Ben smirked at Zeke and then directed it towards David. Zeke noticed his eyebrows waggling and wondered if it was intentional, or if it was some in-joke shared between brothers.

Oh Japan. Zeke felt Ben and David’s eyes returning to him so he raised his glass to his lips and brought his look from the ceiling back to them as he returned his glass to the table. “So, then. Is there any particular way to show those sorts of manners?” Zeke took his hand from his glass and joined it to the other. “Phrases or words, or something?”

“Gomenasai, is probably the most important, eh Dave?” Ben nodded toward his brother.

“Yeah. Definitely.” David looked toward Ben but Zeke noticed his eyes moving slowly along, their focus too wall-like to be concentrating on something so close as his brother’s face. Ben’s addition to his statement kept Zeke’s eyes from following David’s to their end.

“It’s basically ‘sorry’. But that’s a really important word for a foreigner to know. If you get looked at cock-eyed, then just say it and you’ll either satisfy, impress, or confuse.” A smile animated all of Ben’s face before he finished. “They never expect foreigners to know any Japanese!”

“So how does that sou―” The table stirred and everyone turned to the aisle end, where the cart-pushing waitress stood. She named each dish, one by one, and swept the faces around the table, looking for glints of recognition and unloading her burden piecemeal before each.

“Is there anything else I can get you right now?” She folded her hands over her stomach as if readying herself to sing. Zeke shook his head, and heard five voices saying, mumbling, or grunting “no, thanks.” She smiled, turned, and walked the cart off into the restaurant.

Zeke took his utensils from their cloth wrap and then laid it on his lap. He held his fork at the ready, and sized up the grease-glistening skin over his breast of goose. “So, how does that sound? Gominasigh?”

Ben looked up from his plate. “Just about. The second syllable is more of an ’ah’ kind of sound.”

Zeke repeated the word with this tweak.

“Yeah. Like that. Just remember, go, men, ah, sigh. Try it slowly first and then speed it up.”

“All right. Thanks, Dave.” Zeke smiled at the boy as he began to tear into his meal.

“Showing off your mastery of language, eh, Dave?”

Zeke faced Shaun.

“Hopefully you’ve picked some stuff up here over the last few days.” He turned from his mother to Zeke. “Dave’s got a knack for languages. He just picks them right up.”

Zeke looked over at the boy. He grinned, but barely looked up from his plate. “Thanks.”

“Well, I speak the truth.” Shaun shrugged to Zeke. “He’s humble, one of the things that sets him apart from his brothers, I think.” Shaun raised his chin and looked down his nose at David who now gave his attention more proportionately to his brother.

He chuckled, then shook his head. He said something in French. Then turned to Zeke. “That’s something you might want to consider over in Japan, too. I don’t know if it works for foreigners, but showing a bit of humility seems to be something they appreciate in general.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Zeke capped his appreciation with a grin and then turned back to his meal. The skin on the goose split as his fork poked through. He could feel saliva creep around the edge of his mouth. Zeke drew his lips in to lick them, and then took a swig of his beer before using that hand to bring his knife to his fork.

Japan. Maybe I should’ve gone there. It’d have been a longer wait, but still. No. This one’s just better, right? More middle of the road.

The sounds of silverware against silverware and the scents released as flesh and breading and skin were pierced crowded the wafting smell of the goose Zeke cut into. They’re good people. Hopefully Japan itself isn’t too different from what they say. He beamed as the goose flesh gave up its grease to his tongue as it was pressed between his teeth. It’s got to be. It’s going to be!


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Poem of the Week #10: Ghosts

Two ghosts haunt the poetry and writing of poem maker NSCZach this Halloween.
Two spooky (?) ghosts in a mysterious location. Image from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/White-Halloween-Ghosts-Friendship-982975

Introduction

Halloween is coming up and so I wanted to try to get a poem related to it done this week. What came out is a piece that relates to Halloween and how I sometimes feel about what I write. Sometimes it just feels like I’m stringing words together without much thought to anything other than how they sound. And how can you say anything truly meaningful or useful when you’re just putting words together that sound good?

When I get that feeling it’s a bit hard to feel like a writer.

Maybe that’s just because I’m really more of a poet?

Maybe.

Maybe I should leave that up to you. Here’s this week’s poem:

Writing Ghosts

I feel some days like I’m writing ghosts
Covering nothing with words.
Casting nouns and verbs and adjectives like bedsheets
over procrastinating children
before sending my darlings out
minutes before bedtime Halloween night

What harm can come of haste?
What’s wrong with improv?

But the children beneath
those sheets are the same without it.

They aren’t warped into wolfmen
or woven into spider women.
Wands and hats don’t spell out wizard or witch.
That bedsheet’s no pop culture persona
They will put on again in decades hence.
Beneath the bedsheet they are just children
and we all are just children only once.


If you’ve got any comments or constructive criticism on this week’s poem, please share them in the comments section below!

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Fiction Friday: Heading East, Looking West — Chapter 5 Part 2

An open book of fiction ripe for Fiction Friday!
An open book somewhere outside. Photo by MabelAmber: https://pixabay.com/en/book-pages-open-book-literature-1616087/

Welcome to the story of the seeker of love, Zeke, and his quest for personal meaning as an English teacher in South Korea.

If you’re just starting out here, you might want to check out the first chapter of Heading East, Looking West here.

Recap

After coming to South Korea seeking to escape his mundane job and crumbled relationship, Zeke meets Ji-Hye. Although they’re co-workers, they begin to spend more and more time together outside of work. Their blooming romance draws the attention of those who are for it, against it, and just uncertain about it.

Summary

This week’s section of Heading East, Looking West, is a huge emotional turning point. If there was any uncertainty about Zeke and Ji-Hye’s relationship between them, after this scene that uncertainty entirely evaporates.

December – Part 2

An orchestra like the one that Zeke and Ji-Hye see in South Korea in NSCZach's fiction novel Heading East Looking West.
The Orchestra of the Music Makers at their Stravinsky concert. The kind of scene that Zeke and Ji-Hye enjoy in this part of Heading East, Looking West. Image released by the orchestra under a Creative Commons license. Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orchestra_of_the_Music_Makers_Stravinsky_Concert.jpg

Night filled the sky just as snow covered the ground. Both sparkled. A bus drove past and several cars followed it. This street looks familiar enough. I know there’s a church somewhere around here. He pulled out his phone and flipped it open. Still half an hour to 8. He tucked it back into his pocket and then patted the lump against his leg. It’s in this neighbourhood. I know that much.

Buildings, square and sharp-cornered, filled each block. The only variety to be found was in their facades and distances from the street. Many of those spaces were filled with awning or umbrella-covered tables and chairs. People sat at them, busy putting morsels of grilled pork or eel or spoonfuls of rice into their mouths and pushing words out. Torches were there too, the kind powered by gas and turned on by smiling servers. Zeke wrapped his arms about himself, patted his sides, and walked on. The feel of his sports coat’s textured material forced a chill through him though no wind resisted him and no fresh snow whipped underfoot threatening to make him slip. The sidewalk was almost dry.

I’m glad my classier coat option is working so far. Hopefully it’s enough.

A banner over a doorway drew his attention. The string-bodied characters on either side of the thin-lettered message suggested something with a choir. No. He’s not a choir conductor. There’s an orchestra or string set. Zeke turned his shaking head back to the street. He clapped his hands into his pockets.

The sidewalk came to an unexpected end. Zeke stopped short at the curb, almost amazed at the lights that he did not remember. It’s always so different at night. Maybe Ji-Hye’s already there and I could give her a call? As he wondered his eyes wandered across the tops of buildings. They stopped on a neon cross at his right. It floated what looked like inches, but was probably feet, over a box of a building kitty corner to where he stood. His slow nod was accompanied by an exhalation of a rising “ah.” Zeke crossed with the light and then turned right.

He passed by the box of a building and turned into the narrower road beside it. Streetlamps grew further apart down the street, inviting more of the night into the air about him. He looked at his shoes. I hope I’m not underdressed for all of this. It’s a night out at the orchestra, after all. It’s not like it’ll be less classy just because it’s conducted by one of my school’s teachers. The sounds of a car door slamming and of chatter pulled his eyes to the road ahead. Beyond an open gate at his left was the building that rose the neon cross.

Cars were being parked and locked at the top of the rise, but street lights still held the night at bay. They pinned it to the side of the building. Helped by the conversations fluttering through the air, the building’s own light warmly pushed the night further into the sky. Yet as Zeke neared the building the words being traded turned from pirouetting snowflakes to settled slush. He pressed against it as he neared the main doors.

He checked the faces of all of those around him. Most were women, their features all the more noticeable for their makeup. Almost all of them wore dresses, things Zeke judged to be these women’s take on semi-formal. There were none of the long trains or hoop skirts he’d gotten used to studying English society over the ages, yet the women of the crowd struck him as very much of that country’s eighteenth century nobility. They all look ready for culture. For something quietly exciting. Like, well, an evening out at an orchestra. Some had hair that was teased, others had theirs crimped, and others wore it in what looked to Zeke to be its natural way. Regardless of how they were outfitted and coiffured, most of the women’s faces drew his attention because of their obvious makeup.

I always thought people wore make up to look more natural.Maybe it’s just the lighting out here.

Zeke tsked to himself and lifted his chin to see further into the crowd, within and without. Overdone makeup or not, it seemed that all of the women of the crowd vented excited words from open expressions, parting lips redder than the neon cross overhead. It looked like the crowd’s men were similarly occupied, but in more direct tones.

Their style of dress was much less diverse. Zeke saw short hair all around, foreheads that looked like they had been made of worn leather rather than skin along with those barely creased and still soft to the eyes. Most of the men did not wear glasses. And most of them were dressed in what they likely wore to work: Jackets over collared shirts with ties, pants that at least looked like they could be pressed and shoes that shone like pavement blocks slick with melting snow.

He spotted her. Zeke lowered his chin and leveled his eyes at the crowd while making a quick note on where she stood. He pressed his way into and through the crowd. He slipped a hand into his pocket and pulled his phone out far enough to see the time. Okay. Just eight fifty three.

“Chamchimanyo.”

Either impressed by his pronunciation or dumbfounded by a foreigner uttering so many familiar syllables, the looks of ladies and men alike stuck to him as they slid aside.

“Ji-Hye!” He waved as he reached the edge of the crowd. She turned, her smile bringing her stance, expression, and form into as much relief as a spotlight.

Her feet were bared to the cold ground wind, bound into sandals that sat atop low spike heels. The lines of her calves veered outwards, then tried to reunite, widened again, and disappeared beneath a skirt that looked as warm as it was silky. It was a skirt that concealed what was beneath it in way similar to how a shadow concealed what it fell over.

A purse, smaller than the one that Zeke had grown accustomed to seeing under her arm, was tucked between her side and elbow, that hand reaching back to hold it in place. Its fingers were like veins of driven snow crusted onto a wall. Her blouse was simple in colour and easy in design; half sleeves covered her arms to the mid bicep. About her shoulders was a scarf inscribed with some character or other. To Zeke it looked like a comfortable top, if a little tight around her chest, just where her limboing neckline drew his eyes.

Though it felt to Zeke as if he had lingered every few inches while lifting his eyes from her feet to her face, the smile he’d first glimpsed on Ji-Hye’s face was unchanged. As his eyes locked into hers her appearance washed over him all over again. None of his gawking looked to be lost on her as she brightened and, though Zeke would not believe it just yet, winked. Rebellious indeed.

“Ah―you look good.” She took steps enough to be a Catholic foot away from him. She closed the distance with a lean and spoke in what sounded like a whisper compared to the crowd’s din. “Very seks-shee.” The sound was printed on her lips and traveled along the glimmer of her eyes so that Zeke had no need to incline an ear. He patted the pockets of his pants and let his fingers linger over their material. His wrists rubbed against his sport coat’s sleeves. I’ll have to take this coat off. Even with just three buttons, it’s too much out here, and there’s probably a heater on in there. He loosened his tie, but then turned toward the door which Ji-Hye had already set off to, and re-tightened it. He cleared his throat and followed her in.

He smiled at the large hydraulic hinges connecting the doors to the ceiling. Just like at the school – but nowhere else in this city. His smile verged on a grin. Ji-Hye waved him over to the table before her.

“Ten thousand. Okay?”

Zeke reached into his coat and pulled out his wallet. “Sure.” Should I ask if she’s already paid? A grin broke over his face. She seemed indifferent to his expression as he slid it through her sight and toward the woman sitting behind the table that held the cashbox and various flyers. The woman nodded when Zeke held two five thousand won notes in his hand and said her thanks in an audible breath before closing her mouth into a smile that flashed her teeth. She nodded to the couple as they passed. Zeke noted the way the woman’s eye darted to him as she nodded them away. Even as he turned away he thought her smile looked like it would endure.

Ji-Hye moved quicker than Zeke expected she could in heels. He could feel warmth building up between his skin and shirt, in part because of his coat. After they entered the auditorium she stopped in the middle of an aisle, waved Zeke over, and then waited for him to arrive. Most of the auditorium was already filled. “I am very excited for this show.” She grinned around her words.

“Me, too! It’s really impressive that the school’s music teacher can conduct an orchestra.” They shuffled through to the middle of their row. Zeke shifted into his seat until he was comfortable. “It’s a good view too.”

Ji-Hye’s expression remained unchanged and set on him. He could see her lips beginning to part. I hope it gets dark soon. “Why is Mr. Han’s conducting impressive?” Her head tilted and her hair draped down.

“Because most of the music teachers I had in school just played instruments. Conducting…seems harder. Like it takes more skill.” He looked from the stage over to Ji-Hye.

Her eyes held his. She hummed and drove her chin downwards before bouncing it off of some unseen surface. Her hair nodded with her, and the sight of her face in such motion made Zeke wonder if she was moving as slowly as she appeared to be. Her hair cascaded around her face, like a partial waterfall of soft onyx. If only I could just touch it―see what it’s really like.

The lights over the audience dimmed. Zeke found himself leaning back and then turning to the stage. Good. It’ll be too dim for her to see that kind of wish. He let his look drift to the right. Ji-Hye’s skin glowed a night sea blue. Zeke savoured the sight.

A man in a black tuxedo walked out onto the stage, his steps as wide and as certain as someone walking around familiarly placed buckets of water. He stopped near the stage’s edge and then brought his hands in front of his chest. The fingers of one hand hooked into those of the other. He surveyed the audience and then began to speak. Zeke looked past the words and noticed a crew of black-clad people organizing chairs in a neat succession of rows as they went along behind the man.

After the chair crew disappeared behind the curtain one musician after another strolled out and sat in the arranged chairs. Just as they and their instruments settled, the black-clad crew was out again bearing music stands. They fanned out so that each musician had a stand placed before them almost simultaneously. The man had still been speaking, but now Zeke noticed his voice softening as the crew vanished once more. Behind him, all as one, the musicians placed their books upon the stands and, as if a single hand had done so, they were all opened to the appropriate pages.

A single member of the stage crew stepped forward, then, rolling a lectern to the space behind the music teacher who continued to explain, or describe, or joke. As the crew member stepped along the edge of the conductor’s spotlight, he could clearly see that the man pushing the podium wore a single piece suit. Only his head was exposed. The lectern stopped behind the conductor, and then the black-clad crewman continued across stage until he was behind a curtain. All of the instruments began to softly tune themselves to each other.

“Kamsahamnishimnika.” The man bowed to those in front of him in place of doing so to the entire audience and then made an abrupt turn. His tails raised. He produced a baton and lifted it. The silence that followed his gesture made Zeke wonder if he had pulled all of the room’s sound to his raised baton’s tip. Its taps against the lectern broke the stolen sound free, and the instruments sent forth a harmonious wave as the baton flicked upward.

Zeke watched Mr. Han’s motions. The baton zipped about in front of him, its tip as nimble in open space as a spider on its web. Though rather than drawing light into fine lines, Mr Han’s movements drew what seemed to Zeke like enough sound and energy from the musicians to power the lights that remained lit over them. The man’s hand danced with the baton’s end.

As he watched, the hand’s movements began to grow distinct in his mind. Less and less the black tuxedo-ed body to which it belonged mattered as its subtlest and broadest motions brought the rise and fall of strings, brass, and wind. Each flick through the air began to look like it alone was producing music, as if the sound of the wooden rod parting air was symphonic. As if it broke some as yet undiscovered particle and the result was the release of energy as music.

Zeke raised his hand from his lap to the arm rest. Instead of the brush of plush upholstery the rest was smooth and warm. He skated his hand down to the rest’s end. Her hand. Mr. Han and his musical hand vanished from Zeke’s view as he turned to his own. Her hand. He let his rest atop it. The music filled the seats all around them then, none of the earlier crowds could he see. Ji-Hye still watched the stage. Her expression, her shoulders, her hand, all relaxed. Don’t stare.

He glanced up her cheek and could feel its softness even through the sight of it in the auditorium’s dim light. He traced the supple skin, as yet unbroken by any blush, up and into her eyes. Don’t stare.

He lost awareness entirely of the music’s source as it crashed through crescendos and settled into a soft melody. All the world else was darkness save for her eyes. Eyes that Zeke could tell were starting to stir. Don’t. Stare.

Ji-Hye’s face shifted from a profile to a portrait. The sight of both eyes, two rounds of the darkness all about them concentrated and contained in a moon-pale face, was drawn into his eyes as the strings stirred amidst the brass. As quick as the notes within their sting her lips raised at their ends. Her face drew forward. He felt his torso pressing against the arm rest. Her breath puffed from between her lips and against his.

He soon answered her grin with his own. She pulled her hand half way out from under his and then pressed it into it. Each of their fingers fit into the spaces between those opposite. Their faces hovered inches above the arm rest, their far shoulders pulled from their seat backs.

Held aloft by the light playing between and within their eyes, their grins broadened as the wind instruments swept up past the strings and into competition with the brass. All else was dim, even the star of the stage was blocked from his sight, and, as Ji-Hye’s eyes suggested, from hers as well.

Zeke opened his mouth to draw in a breath. Instead, the air Ji-Hye exhaled rushed past him and made him feel as though lip had just brushed against lip. He felt his hand tighten around hers. Her fingers pulled his palm into hers as he lifted his hand from the arm rest. The brass fell away and strings and wind intertwined. He moved in closer and she did the same.

Their lips met. Pore pressed against pore. All of the crevices of each pair slid together and joined into a single thing. A mutual puckering brought the two closer together. But the kiss’ ending left their lips parted, a passage for what Zeke imagined was a sigh.

Ji-Hye’s colour could be seen through the dimness, her face reminding Zeke of a scarlet moon hanging in a starless sky. A thought of someone else and some time long past trickled through his memory. Ji-Hye’s lips joined together and raised at the ends. Her cheeks picked up and her eyebrows lowered over eyes that glinted, though there was so little light with which they could do so.

Zeke grinned back. Before he let the rest of the room break back into his awareness on its wave of applause, he saw her expression glow. He tightened his grip of her hand as he brought it back down to the rest. The remainder of the music played and their hands became the site of waggling, tickling fingers.


Thanks for reading! Please leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments.

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Poem of the Week #9: Garbage

A garbage can overflowing with trash of all kinds, like the rage in this bit of poetry from NSCZach.
Garbage piled up around a full can in a park near you. Image from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Garbage-Can-Waste-Pollution-Waste-Bins-Garbage-1260832

Introduction

Before I reviewed this week’s poems I was sure that I’d have to scrape the bottom of the barrel I thought I’d reached. There was one poem in particular that had a personal bent to it that I thought would outshine the rest.

And it did. There were some contenders, though. But ultimately the pseudo-rap/slam poem I roughed out about small domestic things inspiring rage won out. Writing it out was cathartic, as was typing it up and making some quick improvements.

Though that phrase “roughed out” is certainly apt here. There are some tonal things I’d like to improve with this poem, I just don’t think it’s clear enough if it should be taken as ridiculous or serious (I think it’s ridiculous in retrospect, but in the moment, anything that causes rage feels quite serious, right?). But that’s why I’m posting it here. Giving you all a little peek into yet another poem in progress.

Please do enjoy:

Gotta Wait for It to Cool

My body is stiff
except for twiddling thumbs.
My mind is anywhere
except waiting for my food to go from raw to yum.
Passing over all the hate that they generate
bathing, soaking in it,
so that by the time my mind’s back again it’s a hate satay.

Still hot, gotta wait for it to cool,
still hot, don’t want to feel like a fool.

All the little things, they start to add up:
junking a paper towel after cleaning a speck,
cowering reaction to touching un-et food,
cleaning dishes and emptying the machine
only when in the mood.
But worst of all, the true dynamo,
repeated blissful ignorance of where the trash goes.

Still hot, gotta wait for it to cool,
still hot, don’t want to feel like a fool.

Coming home to see paper in the plastic bin
or recycling in the can
makes me question my limits as a man.
Seeing that shit,
if I was a doctor, I’d have to quit.
Paper has its own hidden tub under the sink
and soft plastic has one in plain sight,
an open grocery bag,
nestled all cozy and “cute”
in the big bin for the hardcore consumer remains
hard plastic, metals, and cartons.
Learning the system’s no harder
than learning when your next fart is.

Still hot gotta wait for it to cool,
still hot but I don’t even give a fuck.
Burn my mouth, spit out the fork
wreck my hard made meal, look a fool.


If you’ve got any comments or constructive criticism on this week’s poem, please share them in the comments section below!

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Fiction Friday: Heading East, Looking West — Chapter 5 Part 1

An open book of fiction ripe for Fiction Friday!
An open book somewhere outside. Photo by MabelAmber: https://pixabay.com/en/book-pages-open-book-literature-1616087/

We’re now in the middle chapter of Heading East, Looking West. South Korea doesn’t get much snow, but winter’s chill is still felt there. Nonetheless, this chapter has some of the book’s warmest scenes. Please do enjoy.

And, if this is the first part of the story you’re seeing, you can check out the first chapter of Heading East, Looking West here.

Recap

Zeke’s been living and working in South Korea for four months now. Over that time he’s become comfortable in his teaching job, and started to get close to a fellow teacher named Ji-Hye.

But this workplace relationship is far from secret.

Summary

The first section of Chapter 5 (retelling the key events of December) sees Zeke getting contemplative. As he starts to get closer to Ji-Hye he can’t help but think of his ex, Suz. But Zeke’s time thinking things over on a mountainside isn’t entirely uninterrupted as a pair of men mistake him something he’s not.

December – Part 1

Snowy path up the mountain called Munhak in South Korea as featured in the novel Heading East Looking West by NSCZach.
A snow-covered path up Mount Munhak in Incheon, South Korea. One of my pictures from my time spent in South Korea.

Zeke shuddered as the wind swept down from the peak ahead. His coat’s puffs kept the gusts well enough away, but each one found its way between cuff and glove. The stairs beneath him were gently frosted and so he secured a booted foot onto each one before raising himself to the next.

He stepped aside to let an old woman pass. Her coat suggested preparedness for an arctic expedition. Her hands were tucked into mittens that bore the rough edges of home knits. Her deep mauve paws grape-vined up the rail as she climbed upwards. Reminds me of someone climbing across a pole. He put his own gloved hands into his pockets.

Zeke looked to the remaining stairs. A bird flew between the trees on either side. Blue feathers? Maybe it’s an omen of the chill? It definitely mustn’t mind all this cold. The treetops swayed and all Zeke could hear was the wind getting caught on their collected snow. Birds didn’t sing so much as call out. Maybe complaining about the cold? None of the treetops could shake their snow free.

Zeke looked to the sky. It’s a lot clearer in this cold. He exhaled a lungful. The steam from his mouth hung in the air for a moment before evaporating. He stared at where the cloud had been. December already. Four months already. He moved aside to let a couple completely sheathed in the same Gore-Tex puffs of solid colours he had seen on so many other hikers. He noted their goggles ad caps Ah, new variations.

The snow on the evergreen treetops looked like it could be some kind of growth. On others, the patches resembled giant still slugs, lazily lit by the lowering sun. Salt would work on either. He grinned, and started to watch the stairs pass under his feet.

When he looked up the woman smiling at him sparked a memory. He stopped. He squinted and blinked. The lips. The nose. The eyes so green. The eyes. Her eyes twinkled as she passed, leaving Zeke with the impression that she pulled genuine joy from seeing him. Suz?

He turned, but the wave of black hair that fell from her toque was nothing like the soft brown that hers would be in this kind of light. He turned back to his trail, his eyes dragging to the next step, his lips flattening. Had I ever even seen hers in this kind of light? Maybe she reminded me more of Ji-Hye? That would make more sense, right? He could feel his thought take wing, but the thick whoomp of a branch losing its snow knocked it from its course.

Zeke slowed as he brushed his hands together to shake snow from his gloves. He gripped the rail as he continued to rise. His rail hand trailed behind him as he reached the stairs’ top, a generous plateau. Is this natural, or man-made? Zeke took his now free hand and put it in his pocket. The swish of its entry synchronized with the crunch of snow underfoot.

A mountain. Though it seems like it’s more of a really big hill, really. Just too much of it to be contained otherwise, I guess. He turned his head so that his chin touched to his shoulder. The slope of the stairs looked gentle enough but from their top they appeared steeper, like the turns around trees too old or strong to move were sharper than they had been. The snow had been knocked from the railing, but it was slick from use. Shadows kept the stairs that he knew were just as iced from glinting.

Maybe it’d be too treacherous otherwise. Going down definitely looks like it will be. Some people probably use this as a way to warm up or cool down after using that exercise stuff in the parks. Something darted into the brush. Probably. He turned to the other side of the plateau where another set of stairs began. They continued up to a railed landing from which most of the mountain’s trees were only visible as tops. All green and capped by white. He walked to the landing’s edge.

The city stretched away from and around him. He immediately recognized the its stadium despite the snow cover, and the stiff serpentine buses. It almost looks like they’re driving over clouds down there. So much smoothness to the way that cars move. In his sight the streets were full of vehicles skating along the ways between buildings, a glorious display of motorized grace and skill. It reminded him of the sight of a line of cyclists doing stretches together as one. Looking like a well-oiled, many-parted machine bronzed in the last of the day’s sunlight. There’s harmony in that.

A bird’s call pulled his attention to a tree at the corner of the landing. He pulled off a glove and used his bare hand to grab his camera from his pocket. Zeke stepped closer, tensed about keeping quiet, his attention tunneling down to the space between him and the bird that continued to call. Couples and groups and singles walked below. The bird’s voice carpeted the din of their foreign conversations like a towel thrown over potato chips. Zeke positioned himself for a clear, clean shot. He held his stare on the place where the bird sat, eyes fixated on its black wing tips, blue breast, and brown head. It looked ahead, down the mountain. That gleam. I wonder if he’s seen me.

The back of the camera lit up and Zeke raised it, held between his hands, to the bird’s position as he recalled it. He caught the bird within the camera’s screen and inched his finger over the shutter button. He squeezed until the screen flashed black several times over.

“You like birds?”

Zeke nearly vocalized his surprise. He whirled to his right, too quickly to lower his camera. The man standing there was rooted in black pants. He wore a blue jacket that looked to thin for the cold, though at its cuff Zeke noticed sleeves of something thicker poking out. A black bandana―thicker than any Zeke had seen before―was wrapped about a head that looked either close-trimmed or never in need of a trim. “Yes. All animals. They make for good pictures.”

“Your accent. Where are you from?” Another man stepped up as the first one finished his question with a smile like the snow left on the railings.

Zeke spoke before he’d decided to answer. “Canada.”

“Oh! Canada!” The man turned to nod at the other. “What do you think of this mountain?”

Zeke popped a chuckle from his mouth. His head jerked upwards to punctuate its delivery. “It’s good, it’s close.” He leaned inches closer. “But it’s kind of small.”

“Yes,” his voice held no apology or shame, merely the tone of fact. Just like Mr. Oh during one of his science lectures – if my students’ impressions are any good. “It’s elevation is just three hundred and thirty feet.” The speaker looked at the man beside him whose face was haggard, despite the inky softness of his eyes. “My friend and I climb this one all the time.” He turned back again to Zeke. “But there is a higher mountain in Seoul city―do you know this?”

Zeke pressed his lower lip into his upper lip and shook his head. “No. I had no idea.”

“You should come with us sometime.” His hands slid into a pocket of his coat.

Zeke squinted and looked into the eyes of the man and his friend. Both pairs gleamed like the piles of snow dressing the trees’ tops and bare branches. The man who had spoken wore a symmetrical smile. Zeke exhaled the words as if trying to empty his stomach of air. “Okay. Sure.”

“Do you have a hand-uh-pone?” The man pulled out his hand and slid his own phone open.

Zeke switched his camera with his phone.

“What is your number?” Zeke noticed that the man’s hands were bare beneath his phone.

Zeke rhymed off his number in his best call centre voice. At least I learned one thing from that week. As long ago and far away as it was. The thought of his life in Canada was quickly dismissed as Zeke smiled at the man. After entering the number he pressed another button and Zeke’s phone shook in his hand. He flipped it open and pressed the necessary buttons to save the incoming number. “Okay.”

“Okay. I will call you before we go to the mountain in Seoul city, okay?”

“Sure. I’m Zeke by the way.” He put his phone back into his pocket. He patted it into his leg as he watched the silent man.

“Jee-keh?” The man’s phone and hand returned to a coat pocket.

“Yeah.”

“I am Lee Chun, and this is Hee Cho.” The man beside him widened his smile and nodded towards Zeke who returned the gesture.

“Nice to meet you both.”

Lee Chun’s smile broadened and opened at its ends. “Nice to meet you, too.” He pulled his gloves back over his hands. “Okay. See you later.” Zeke grunted agreement and nodded to reinforce its meaning. The two walked off in a low hum of words.

Weird. But friendly is all right. He looked back to the branch and felt in his pocket for his camera. Empty. Ah well. Zeke found his camera’s case in another pocket, tucked his camera into it, and shoved it into his coat. He turned from the tree and back to the slope of mixed snow over broad stairs that led an extra few feet to the mountain’s top observation deck.

The conversation’s thinner up there. The birds’ll probably be bolder, too, Hopefully less shy. He looked into the eyes of a passing woman who seemed not to notice.

The view from the cleared top swished like a brushstroke from the city’s thicket of skyscrapers to a long and unfinished bridge to an island Zeke was sure he’d never seen up close. The thinner parts of the city between these landmarks were draped in snow and fog, late afternoon lights reassuring all who looked down upon it that the streets were still full and businesses still running despite the winter day’s early end.

Down near the constructed edge of the bridge, cranes were immobilized by the day’s being a Saturday. Their claws hung low and empty. Strange how they look like kids’ toys left out mid-job from up here. Zeke drove his gaze down what had been built of the bridge back to the solid ground and buildings and infrastructure of Incheon. He ran it over traffic heading in both directions and through city blocks, settling on a clear square of land surrounded by buildings and by streets that looked greener than the rest. There was a fountain in the patch’s middle. Through the fog the snow that had settled on it looked nearly like water that had frozen mid-spray. People no bigger than any of the hairs on his hands walked about it, waited for lights to change, covered rumbling intersections, or clumped together in groups.

But none of their noise reached him there on the mountain’s top. All of the cars and students and shoppers and business people and travellers moved in silence. As if the fog smeared their sound into nothingness. Bird song, bird calls, birds alighting and landing on branches, freeing them from snow – those were the sounds that filled Zeke’s ears. It’s like they’re calling to the sun. Zeke turned to look at the star through the distance and haze. It’s like it’s resting on those clouds before it moves on to the other side of things As if the clouds were a pillow and the sun a face. Ji-Hye’s face.

Zeke pulled his encased camera back out. He thrust his hand through the looped strap before holding the camera between fingers and thumbs. He looked through it and zoomed in as far as he could. The people still looked small. Colour clad bodies moving beside blocks, bigger snowflakes, gathering into piles. He withdrew his zoom.

He prepared his camera for a panoramic shot and aligned his view with the horizon. He dropped to one knee so that he could keep the line of hills and towers behind the city well away from the middle of his photo. His breath became deliberate. A tree. No wind. Perfect stillness. A click and the image was captured. He turned to his left, fiddled with his position and then repeated the click. He turned further and clicked again. He exhaled, letting his other knee down to the ground. Not bad. Good and clear. He put a hand to his thigh and stood. He walked to a boulder near the landing’s edge and rose the camera to his face again. Right. A similar sequence of buttons were pushed, and then he ducked behind the small plastic rectangle. Shots were gathered in quick succession. Of the city. Of the land beyond it. A further attempt at the birds and the trees. Postcards, these’d be great for postcards.

A bird squawked and pressed against a branch to launch itself into the air. Its flapping reminded Zeke of a swimmer’s breaststroke, firm and steady. Flying off to better things. Or at least to some meal. Some meeting. The sort of thing Ji-Hye said she had to be at today.

The bird carried itself further from the point where Zeke stood, growing smaller with each wing beat―becoming a snowflake, a hair on the back of his hand. He squinted as it grew smaller still.


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Poem of the Week #8: Heart

A visual poem about a heart shaped apple that matches poetry by NSCZach.
A heart-shaped apple that truly stands out. Image from https://pixabay.com/en/apple-love-heart-570965/

Introduction

Every now and then I’ll hear a first line or two and a whole poem will come of it. Where these words come from is something of a mystery. They’re definitely related to things on my mind, but they just kind of rise from the goop of my general thoughts.

These poems often come out in their first, hand-written draft, with a decent rhythm and some sort of rhyme scheme. Almost as if my mind has some poetic forms pre-loaded. Or maybe just carved into it through years of studying English lit.😉

Anyway, this week I tried to put more emphasis on what I could consciously remember of different poetic forms and tactics. So I came up with things like a loose sonnet and a dramatic monologue. And I also came up with this week’s poem’s tactic of starting each stanza with the word that ended the previous one.

This one is a perfect example of one of those poems that came as a spontaneous, solid first draft. It’s been polished a bit, but except for a few word changes and the punctuation, here is this week’s poem mostly as I wrote it.

Twisted Heart

Is it a twisted heart
that sees the reddest apple
and desires it more than any other?

Others may know its fruit is still mealy,
not quite formed beneath its scarlet face,
But could ignorance be bliss?

Blissful moments,
they are fleeting
when you reach the heart’s ripe age.

Ages ago such desires and acts
were thought worth repeating
down generations and up family trees.
But now those branches burn
and such generating acts are censored.

Censored minds want more of what’s behind the black bar.
So like the man in the song about the daughter and the mayo,
Completely unhinged, I might knock that apple down.

Down the gullet it would go,
Before I realized just what
my unripe heart made me do.


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Fiction Friday: Heading East, Looking West — Chapter 4 Part 2

An open book of fiction ripe for Fiction Friday!
An open book somewhere outside. Photo by MabelAmber: https://pixabay.com/en/book-pages-open-book-literature-1616087/

If this is the first part of Heading East, Looking East that you’re reading, you might want to go back to the beginning to get the full story.

This recap can help, but it’s not quite the same experience.

Recap

Zeke has come to South Korea to teach English. He leaves behind a retail job he’s overqualified for, and a relationship that he’s outgrown. So far, in South Korea Zeke has found a challenging job and a woman whom he might just be falling in love with named Ji-Hye Park.

Summary

In this part of the novel Zeke joins the art teacher’s field trip to a Seoul art museum. Here he hears about some of the latest gossip about him and Ji-Hye. Zeke also bounces his feelings for Ji-Hye off of one of his South Korean co-workers.

November – Part 2

South Korea art museum display like the one from NSCZach's Heading East Looking West novel.
The posters outside of the Hangaram Art Museum in Seoul, South Korea. Taken during a 2008 visit during my time working in South Korea.

The air around the building made it look greyer than it was. A poster draped down its front depicting a ship with a triangular sail tipped nearly on its side by a grey green wave. Two smaller posters in a shared style flanked the larger one. One of these depicted a man laid out on his back, a limp hand drooping to the hand of a bare-chested woman. The other showed what looked to be the same couple earlier in their relationship, or so Zeke deduced from the man’s chasing the woman. Both were naked, and he was erect, facts that had been all but unnoticed by the students that surrounded him. The boys were unable to stop elbowing each other and pointing and the girls giggled and jostled.

Zeke turned around. There was considerable space between the student groups, Mr. Park, and a few other teachers standing tall among them. And they all wore street clothes, forcing Zeke to actively remember that this was a school trip. It just wasn’t one done during regular hours. If this were my middle school there’d be a skipping rope between them all right now. Though grade one of middle school is the seventh grade. He wondered through this point as the group meandered to a stop at the last set of lights between them and the gallery. Zeke was thankful that the students’ shyness had kept them from getting into in-depth conversation while riding the subway into Seoul.

Cars, trucks, and small motorcycles that zoomed down every paved surface hummed despite their stillness as the group crossed. Some of the vehicles lined up before the crossing students shook with the effort of either cohesion with the line or clinging to their stop. Each group of students seemed to be running on excited chatter or giggling or a cocktail of the two. The crowd of them revved along with the vehicles that left the line as the pedestrians finished crossing. They passed under the shadow of the gallery’s façade.

Zeke watched the students walk past and turned to check on those behind him. Mr. Park was still at the head of it all, the swing of Zeke’s stare back to the front of the group assured him. The building with the posters hanging down it was passed under and a courtyard with gridiron arches stood beyond it as the gallery’s entrance. The entire front, beyond the steel rainbows, was made of panes of glass, at first regular and in a set pattern, but as the eye raised so too did anomalies. The panes grew smaller. Their placement became erratic. Kind of like stained glass murals. The way the arch closes up there. The panes stopped just below the roof, but came to a dome shape as a collective. The dome was flanked by triangles of panes all set at angles. Stained glass without the stain, though.

Zeke walked forward with his head craned upwards. His jaw loosened and he felt his mouth open. As he walked into the main building’s shadow he could hear he students’ jeers at the exterior art samples. Smaller versions of the pair of paintings showing the man and the woman were among them. Up close he could see that the man’s arms and legs were knotted about with hair and his chest was wispy.

At the bottom of his sight Zeke saw one student elbow another and then turn and point. It took a line of smiles and laughing eyes to make him realize that they were pointing at him. He levelled his head and pressed his lips upwards against the drive to keep them flat. The students gawked. Zeke flicked his eyes to the poster and struck a pose similar to the one of the man running. His hands were at his sides, fingers pointed forward as though they were sheer, flat awls against the air. He set his legs into a frozen running pose, balancing on the ball of one foot while the other was raised and readied to hit the dirt or stone or grass that he was meant to be running over.

He could hear them whooping and clapping, responses that were only partially replaced with Korean hollering when his leg started to wobble. He dropped his raised leg, did a small bow, and headed to the part of the group that had already gone inside. Through the sliding doors he saw one of he other teachers heading out to round up the courtyard students.

A whoosh and the soft grind of rubber against metal welcomed him into the building. Mr. Park stood at one end of the circle of students in the middle of the foyer. His arms were over his chest, his mouth another line in his face made distinct only in its being perfectly horizontal. He looked around at the students milling past Zeke and formed words even he could understand. His look was like flint when it turned to Zeke.

Zeke felt himself draw back into himself, his eyelids closed and his lips split, holding a smile and letting loose a small laugh. Mr. Park jerked his head back, and cracks in his expression began to show. Another teacher from the group walked up to his side. Mr. Park barked something at him―a short series of what Zeke guessed were words―and then looked back to Zeke, the lower half of his face baring mostly teeth.

“He says that you need to get in sooner.” The teacher smiled. “And that you need to stop looking at women in front of the students.”

Zeke looked over to Mr. Park. His grin had widened and his eyes glowed like fresh embers. He also waggled his eyebrows but Zeke looked back to the other teacher before he could take clear note.

“I don’t think we’ve met…” Zeke tilted his head and squinted. “Wait.” The teacher grinned so that his nose was in danger of being entirely encircled. “Sky? Ah! I didn’t recognize you with that haircut.”

Mr. Park turned to Sky and, Zeke guessed, asked what he had just said. Sky briefly relayed Zeke’s words. Immediately after the exchange laughter threw open Mr. Park’s mouth. He settled and intoned an “Okay!” He clapped his hands and looked out over the group. His voice growled in his throat before it emerged in the form of a “let’s go!”

Sky and Zeke fell into the back of the group as it walked past the admissions desk and into the gallery proper.

“You are very good friends―friends?”

Zeke nodded.

“Friends with many teachers at Inju, right?”

Is it a thing for gym teachers to be good at English here, or is it just their nicknames? Do they give some kind of special confidence? “Yes. I think so.” Zeke felt his leg muscles tighten and his arms’ swinging becoming pendulous. He exhaled, hoping it was below audibility, and let his shoulders sink. “You and Mr. Park―the English Department―Ji Hye, Ms. Eom, Mr. O, these are all my friends at Inju.”

Sky’s eyes were wide, a detail not masked by the glasses that adorned them. “Oh! Very impressive! I am very happy for you.”

Zeke picked up a postcard from a stand, one with the image of the nearly capsized ship on it. There were others in separate bays of the counter. I’ll come back for those. The walls of the hallway were opened on either side and large wooden-looking frames lined them. Most of them held paintings of women and crowds, but one of a white-wigged general amidst some sort of assembly drew Zeke’s gaze. “Thanks.”

“Is there one teacher you like more.” Sky dropped his head for a moment, moved his lips, and then brought it back up. “more?”

Zeke turned from the painting. “Than the others?” Sky nodded and puffed out some air in the process. Zeke hummed until he had to draw in more air. “A favourite?” He could already feel himself blush. “Well, I like you all the same. You’re all great teachers and really excellent people.” Zeke watched for Sky’s reaction. They rounded a corner formed by the wall set into the middle of what had been a hallway.

“Ahh.” Sky was nodding slowly, his chin synchronizing with the second hand of a clock on the wall behind him. “What about…” His head lowered again. He rose it when he had loaded the proper word. “female―teachers?” Zeke looked back to the walls and the paintings on them. My hair’s maybe long enough to cover most of my cheeks. “Who is kyou-test?”

Zeke tried to hum and look around at the same time. It’s no surprise. After that day out for the coat. It’s probably all they’ve been gossiping about. Isn’t Sky married to a secretary or another teacher? It’s gotta be okay. He looked at something across the room that guaranteed that Sky’s face would be in his look’s return path. His eyes landed squarely on the man’s nose. Also kinda Greek. Maybe Japanese? Don’t they have bigger noses? Purity can’t be that big a deal here even if I’ve read different. “Well. JiHye is very. Cute.” His gaze fell to the floor. He picked it up and returned it to Sky. “I would say she is my favourite.”

Sky looked oblivious to the change of colour in Zeke’s skin. “Oh! you think so?” The question was punctuated by a chuckle and a grin.

“Is it okay?”

Sky’s head jerked backwards. His eyelids shot apart and one brow was held lower than the other. He repeated the last word to himself a few times. The man shook his head and exhaled rough patches of nonwords once or twice. “Okay? What do you mean, Jay-ik?”

He patted his pockets and then put his hands into them. “Well.”

An image of a man sitting near a window in a drab room with stairs to one side spiralling up and to the other side spiralling down caught his attention. He stopped and Sky stood beside him. Zeke looked so closely at the painting he could see its brushstrokes. “Well. In Canada it’s generally. Hm.” Zeke walked his eyes up the ascending stairway. How to put this. He met Sky’s eyes. “It’s just not something that bosses like in Canada.” Sky tilted his head to one side, narrowed his eyes and pushed out his lower lip. It sounded like some breath brushed over it, but Sky only shook his head and evened his lips. “Dating somebody you work with. Bosses in Canada don’t like that.”

“Oh! Really!?”

“Yes. But it happens here―you and Min are married and both work at the school.”

Sky’s features relaxed and he nodded. His mouth was drawn in, and Zeke noticed the sides hooking downwards, as if they kept back some sort of chin motion. “Yes. Dating…” He raised an eyebrow and looked at Zeke. “Dating,” a short nod, “happens at many workplaces in Korea.”

“Okay. But what about foreigners?”

“Foreigners?”

“Way-gook-in.”

“Ahh. For-een-ers.” Sky’s eyes shot to a patch of space in front of Zeke’s stomach. His chin followed this and at the bottom of its motion his head jerked to the side and a rough exhalation pressed his head back up. “Older generation doesn’t like foreigners and Koreans together. They think purity is very important.”

Zeke shuffled his feet but kept his eyes, wider and more rounded than he would like, on Sky. “Only the older generation?”

“And some young Koreans.” His voice became quiet, yet plodded through the air as he released it. “It is tradition.” He raised a hand and placed it on Zeke’s shoulder. Each finger felt as if it were a leg of a weighty spider. He inspected it. “But JiHye is very…” Skye looked down, his lips moving as he tested silent words on them. “Very rebel-ous.” His smile rose.

“Rebel-e-us?”

Skye’s fingers tightened so that they pressed skin against bone. “Ah―Rebellious. Yes.” He dropped his hand from Zeke’s shoulder only to fold it over his chest with the other before dropping his gaze, lowering his head, audibly exhaling, and finally looking back to Zeke. “Very hard to control.” One hand came up to his chin and the extra support appeared to raise Sky’s smile. He beamed before he spoke so that his eyes shined along with his teeth in the direct lighting of the gallery. “I wonder if you can handle her?” His hand clapped back onto Zeke’s shoulder amidst his laughter.

Had they been outside Zeke’s grin would have blown away. He bolstered it by raising his eyebrows in an attempt to get his own eyes to shine. I’m sure that I can handle her. He raised his own hand and placed it on Sky’s shoulder, drawing his eyes along this bridge and into Sky’s. Zeke’s smile burst before he replied. “Thanks for your support, Sky.”


Thanks for reading! Please leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments.

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Poem of the Week #7: Music

Graffiti as mysterious as the secret song in the poem by NSCZach, master of poetry.
Digital graffiti. Image from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Urban-Art-Music-Graffiti-2024320

Introduction

This week’s poems were on the longer side. One about entrepreneurship and magic was long enough to need to be split into sections.

Along with that need for breaking things up, though, came a pattern.

As I was reading through this week’s works it became clear that the longer the poem, the less worked out was the idea behind it. In some cases this happened because I was merely warming up in a stanza or two before getting to the actual meat of the poem. In others (like that one about entrepreneurship and magic) there was just too much information that I needed to get across.

But, one poem stood out despite needing a little more work. I was inspired to write it after seeing Baby Driver, so it’s got a bit of a musical bent to it.

Enjoy!

Secret Song

There’s music in the distance,
as far from your thoughts as your spine,
it’s spelling out the rhythm and rhyme.
Listen close,
act according,
be divine.

But this music, this song,
won’t get clearer if you just
clam up,
shut up,
listen up.

It’s a song that moves with a rhythm to drive
Moves with a rhyme to bewitch the tinniest ear.
You can’t hear it in the silence
when the world’s like winter.
It’s always locked behind the bars
that play over in a loop in birdsong,
that cover the day to day like jazz.

So make like an eight year old with a crush
and tease it out until you understand.


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