Veritas vincit  
Penniless Press... the inexhaustible voice

Some short flashes of life in South Korea

by John Kehoe


The Crickets

In the dark the field lies like a body of water: empty and vast. Only the crickets are left to announce its existence. A poor farmer's field. In the daytime the field is visible from my 19th floor view. It lies at the foot of a small mountain, its eternal shadow. The crickets may sing during the day but the cacophony of heat bugs is too loud for any other sounds to survive. I live at the border between the city and its surrounding rurality. When I first came here I thought that that farm with its scarce neighbours and over-loaming mountain was the loneliest thing I ever saw. But now, at night, I've come to depend on it's assured chirping to ease my mind into sleep. Tonight, however, there is another voice crying from below me. A woman is wailing. She sounds elderly but her sobbing is as loud and constant as that of a baby. From my bed her crying and the crickets chanting sound like a horrible duet. An operatic debate between life and death. My lover moans and eyes me, but is too tired to speak. The caterwauling goes on for minutes before I manage to shake off my laziness and go to the balcony to peer down into the parking lot.

I search the distant gloom below until I spot her near the entrance of our neighbouring apartment. Suddenly, another woman is there consoling her. The weeping slowly quiets only to be replaced by gasps and shouting. And after several more minutes the women walk off, arms clasped around each other, swaying slowly into the entry of their apartment.

I return to bed. My lover opens her eyes and asks what was going on? I tell her and as soon as I finish she is asleep. I am dead tired but now the crickets sound louder, their lonley symphony almost overwhelming. And here, in my bed, I am lying in the centre of it unable to sleep.

The Cicadas

New summer days are long, loud, and damp. I would reminisce upon old summer days but I can no longer remember them. They did no keep. Or, perhaps could not be kept because of the seamlessness, their unpressured and invisible existence. What I remember of those times is me and my youthful adventures. The weather had, seemingly, no effect upon me. Now my life is all weather. My mature adventures consist solely of trying to keep sane in this new climate. Undoubtedly there are worse places to live. But being in my early 30s my fortitude and patience have worn away almost completely. When I wake up I hear only the cicadas, excited by the flood of heat, rejoicing in it. Their unending joy is depressing. On occasion they land on my window screen and sing solo to me. During those times I am usually lying naked upon the fak e-wood floor being caressed by the wind of my steadily churning fan. I pray for snow, a blizzard, an ice storm. All I get is a chorus of loud hot air. The cicadas are awful revelers of this life and somehow that makes them immortal. Or at least tenacious. So much life prospers in this environment but I keep thinking this is what entering into death will be like: uncomfortable and out of your control.

Dreaming of a castonet orchestra

The city of Daegu is sprawling. There is no apex of sky-scraping buildings to mark its centre. Rather, every section, every block, from end to end, from 'downtown' to 'city limit' is a replica of some standard, boringly plain, architectural plane that is found in every city in South Korea. Only the rare temple or touristy attraction ever offer any variation for one's gaze. This is much more evident in Seoul. But I live in Daegy. I live to 'teach' English to overly spoiled children. But that is thousand other stories.



















©2006 Penniless Press