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Joon Song

Joon Song
Date: 2008-10-06 01:12
Subject: On Reading Old Letters
Security: Public
When I say I love you, or I miss you,
it is because I am safe in knowing
I can hear you again in minutes, hours—
or, if I am so compelled,
I can fly through the sky and see you.

Some sailor, his eyes on the endless seas,
writes letters he ties with bits of string.
To his lover, who waits for him at home,
he is a light that shines at the edge of this world.
For him, she is a dream whose songs
grow more like the waves each passing day.

Whose love is more real?
His voice, grown fainter by the years,
rebukes me when, during our fights,
I don't pick up the phone.

6 October 2008
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Joon Song
Date: 2008-05-12 22:38
Subject: Picture of a Dragonfly and Lotus
Security: Public
Look at the girl
in the red silk dress.

Pretend I am
a dragonfly.

She is
a lotus blossom,
closed demurely,

each petal
curving upward—
as if in prayer,

tips meeting,
lips paused in thought
or shut
against laughter.

I land on the flower a moment to rest.
Could I stay there a while—forever?

The sun glints gold and green
against my wings:
I want to wait
and see her slowly blossom.

12 May 2008
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Joon Song
Date: 2008-05-11 20:40
Subject: Grace
Security: Public
Let us talk of grace:
how sweet a sound.
In my mind I think of autumn,
the beauty of whose turning leaves
gives way to thoughts of fall.

If so, there must be a fall
or something approximating it. In life
certain things will do.

In the fall to earth he broke his neck
or almost did. A violent, mindless sort of end.
Violence gives rise to thoughts of war,
war to life and death.

In the balance between these,
then, there are battles of the flesh
and battles of the soul.
Usually in wars we think of winners
or at least the side that has lost less.
Which of the mourners around him were on which side?
Who could judge

in this quietest of sleeps, in that sterile room
filled with a soft white light, the curtains, the whirling
of ventilators like doves or snow.
All there could be, all there ever was, and will be
is grace.

11 May 2008
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Joon Song
Date: 2008-01-04 22:42
Subject: Publication in Softblow!
Security: Public
As an aspiring writer of poems, I am compelled from time to time to submit my work to magazines--both print and online.

I was fortunate enough to be published in the Berkeley Poetry Review for the past two years, and I'm happy to report that I've been published on an online literary magazine:


Check it out!
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Joon Song
Date: 2008-01-01 16:41
Subject: (no subject)
Security: Public


by Li-Young Lee

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked:   I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.
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Joon Song
Date: 2007-12-25 22:51
Subject: My New Wine Blog
Security: Public
I've started a new wine blog:


I will also continue to post on LiveJournal, but I'm going to focus on Vinicultured for a while.

Check it out and let me know what you think!
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Joon Song
Date: 2007-11-24 23:50
Subject: Thoughts on Czesław Miłosz and the Maxim of "Show, Don't Tell"
Security: Public
 I am taking a creative writing class at Pasadena City College, and while I have received some good feedback regarding my poems it is difficult to really grow when a majority of the students are prose writers.  Short stories, novels.  Even a book on copyrighting (which seems very useful).

Granted, they have provided me with the insights of years of experience--the average age seems to be above 30--and I'm pretty sure there's a poem out there about how youth and old age go great together.  (Maybe I'm thinking about cougars or silver foxes.)  But it's hard to sit through someone reading their short story for 40 minutes and have my reading and the resultant critique take up about 10 minutes.

Then there are differences in stylistic points of view--nay, views on the raison d'être for writing in general.  For instance, "show, don't tell" is a great maxim for short story writers or novelists, but it doesn't necessarily have to apply to EVERY SINGLE POEM EVER.  To take that further, that maxim doesn't have to apply to novels, either--read any of Milan Kundera's works or anything Victorian and jaunts down philosophical / autobiographical paths abound.

Then there's Czesław Miłosz, the Polish poet / Nobel Laureate.  Much of his work in Second Space (his last collection of poems) is reflective rather than descriptive, filled with the wisdom of decades of life and loss.

For instance, the first half of "To Spite Nature":

Many misfortunes resulted from my belief in God,

Which was a part of my notion of the splendor of man.

Man, not withstanding his animal nature,
should have had a spiritual life of great richness,

Should have been directed in his behavior
by motives considered noble and sublime.

He earned respect by becoming a near-angel.

Or a couplet from "I Should Now":

When I think of this, I need an immortal Witness
so that he alone knows and remembers.

And this incredibly powerful stanza from his long poem, "Apprentice":

Human beings should approach, trembling and with reverance,
That deepest arcanum, the union of a man and a woman.
It is an unveiling of the incomprehensible
Love of the Creator for creation.
And the loss of that memory by the twentieth century was unlucky.
They changed the Song of Songs into a sexual game. *

The chronology of sexuality and religion, and then the transformation (if any) from religion to the "sexual game" of the twentieth century is something I would like to study if I had the time.

But--that is getting away from the point of this entry, which is to say that poetry doesn't need to be descriptive to be reflective, nor does it have to be descriptive at all.  Though I should be well-advised to go the way of Miłosz and actually live a little first.


* But the Song of Songs as a sexual game is better than Paul Celan's evocation of this book of the Bible in his terrifying work, "Death Fugue" (Todesfuge), where "the ashen hair" of the Shulamith (the female lover in the Song of Songs) is juxtaposed against the ashes of the concentration camps.  Love debased into a game of pleasure seems, to me, better than the impossibility of love at all.

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Joon Song
Date: 2007-10-23 21:43
Subject: Prologue
Security: Public
We are making dinner.  It is growing dark outside.
Autumn makes herself known on our countertops:
persimmons, quince, pomegranates.

There are 613 seeds in every pomegranate, you say,
which for the Jews represents righteousness.
All I can see are paper skins rouged with vermilion
and, beneath that, the red fruits heavy with juice.

If it is true that each fruit holds 613 seeds
and that this is, therefore, a symbol,
our act of cooking is full of meaning.

In Rome,
I say, before selecting the site of a city
the priests would sacrifice a hare and a dove
and examine the entrails, to view their fortunes
and see if the area could sustain life.

You separate the chicken,
the knife flashing as thighs come apart
and breasts and legs fall into the pot.
The gizzard, liver, and heart
you set on the board smiling,
in light of what I had said.

The meal takes a long time to prepare.
It seems we are nowhere near done.
There is late corn, too. I strip off the tassels
and gaze into the patterns of silk
to try and discern the future.


I am going to compile a collection of poems about... the events of this past year.  I expect that this task will take a very long time--maybe years.  I've entitled this poem "Prologue" for a number of reasons.  First, one of my earliest memories is cooking Valentine's Day dinner with her.  Second, there is always this human desire to know what will happen in the future.  It's probably for the best that we can't know.
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Joon Song
Date: 2007-10-20 17:29
Subject: The Autumn
Security: Public
 Autumn is one of my favorite seasons because it is the most refined.  There is a gentle quality to the autumn, how the heat fades as gradually as the colors on the leaves.  Death is beautiful, none as beautiful as that of the summer.

At this time I ask myself if I am happy.  I am not unhappy.  But there seems to be something more that could be happening, something that has always been missing from my life and something that remains missing despite moments of joy and the gray stretch of daily diversions.  What is it?  What is missing?

Maybe it is God.  When S was suffering I turned to her God for strength and solace.  As it says in the Bible, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evident of things unseen."  But, to offer a crass counter (from one of our esteemed Founding Fathers, no less): "He who lives on hope dies farting."

(That's Ben Franklin, in case you were wondering.)

It's interesting, this notion of her God and my God and their God and our God.  This possessiveness towards God who, if He exists, owns us and is not, as it were, owned by us.  If there were a God, there would be no other Gods.  There would be no hers, nor his, nor theirs--our God would be the most appropriate phrase.

It is audacious to think that a human being could accept or deny God if there were God.  Believers say that the evidence is all around us--is self-evident--while non-believers look around them and see no proof of a divine presence.

In autumn, is there evidence of a higher being?  Can the turning of the leaves be part of His work, or are they just the sign of a slow and graceful aging?
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Joon Song
Date: 2007-10-07 20:03
Subject: (Loss)
Security: Public
you face me.
i face you.

my hand cups the mug of coffee.
you pause to look at the rain.

there are always words to exchange and,
when those run out, there is always silence.

beneath the silence are the looks,
this careful understanding.

one could fashion a relationship out of loss
out of this emptiness that aches to burst

into a yell, a song,
love, heaven,

you say: the poppies will be blooming soon.
i close my eyes and see the bursts of crimson
all across the pavement.
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my journal
October 2008