Monday, February 2, 2015

Jae Newman

Jae Newman of Rochester, New York, is the author of the new poetry collection Collage of Seoul from the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). I am honoured to have been able to help bring this book to publication.

He was born in South Korea and adopted into an American family. The poems in Collage of Seoul, in part, deal with his struggles for identity, including returning to Seoul to meet his birth mother, who hadn't named him. He teaches writing courses at Monroe Community College and Roberts Wesleyan College, and has had poetry appear in such journals as The Bellingham Review, The Cresset, The Korean Quarterly, Rock & Sling, and Ruminate.

Blue Periods

There was a time when everything Pablo painted
was in blues.

Poor, desolate, warring with father,

his bearded self-portrait said something.
He was cold.

Out of exile, I heard my name. Not

the one the world knows, but a hushed whisper
traveling across

a no man’s land of self-indulgence. Indulging
in women, Pablo

painted them, his lovers, as monsters,

ghostly souls incarcerated in skin and
dark hair.

I call on the Lord, ask

to be hidden in the shadows of trees. Digging
my way through the earth, I find

my fingers are blunt, metal objects

that move through rock, through clay,
through lie and Juche. Slight of build,

I don’t care. I’ve got your divine mandate
right here.

How shall I spread the Word

when the Word is love and needs translation?
How does one break a cycle?

Slash and burn?

Elijah called upon the Lord, said,
“Let this boy’s life return”

and of course it did. Of course

I could say
I’ve felt like a puppet, a boy bound by string,

arms, legs, and mouth moving

almost like a real boy.
A real boy is something I can’t quite fathom,

can’t quite reach.

It is how a man feels when he thinks of Eden,
thinks of the Tree,

thinks of the Lord’s breath

hovering the darkened seas. Let there be light,
a whisper said.

Can I do that?

Can I learn to whisper?
Learn to be present in the absence of action?

If Adam and Eve had the will to forsake Eden,
to open a box,

then why can’t someone return to close it?
For me, all blackness is the same.

If I come from a man, as biology says,
then prove it.

If I come from sperm and egg, prove it.

Show me the hand that charmed a cheek.
Show me that love exists and that sex

isn’t just another way unity won't work.
Angel, I am waiting.

Histories conceal our perfect lies.
How can I attack a hermetic pride?

Slash and burn?

Mighty is the Lord whose hands
hold an infinite number of bombs,

little sneezes bursting in palms. He,
who holds my sorrow in the wind. He,

who loves the hungry, the farmer,
the fisherman eating his ration of rice.

There was a time when everything Pablo painted
was in blues. Fishermen standing,

marveling at the blue shore.

I cannot say that this blue is the same.
Sadness is personal, a fleeting stone whose ripples

do not flow evenly.

To change the face of his art, Pablo removed
his heart,

wrapped it in newspaper,
tucked his shame in the shallowness of ego.

How could one man love himself so?

Who can accept the joylessness of children?
Brilliant or not,

art is not enough. It never has been.
Creation bored the lovers

who walked with God through morning

into this dawn where we exist, we think,
in a sort of litmus test.

I don’t care what the poem wants.

I want to take the children of North Korea
food shopping.

Let them each have a cart,

open boxes of chocolates,
eat grapes right out of the bags,

let them try every kind of cookie.

Grace unites me to you and him to us.
It isn’t my law: forgiveness.

It is not my way.

My father says I hold on to grudges.
That is true.

But what’s a grudge but love denied?

And what’s love denied but love saved
for eternity,

for one woman, for all time?

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.