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January 20, 2014 | Poetry

5 Poems

Suad Khatab Ali

5 Poems photo

Seoul. Hong-je Stn. 2:00 am.

a drunk salaryman in baggy gray suit
buys a meal replacement bar
from the vending machine

yells at some teenagers
throws up and
asks me to be his very best friend

 

Seoul. Sinchon Stn. 2:12 am.

a man with gray permed hair
and a neatly folded newspaper
giggles, coughs, belts out a song

when the train arrives
he is sitting on the subway stairs
crying into his hands

 

turns out he did not hate my way of life

I was living in the Emirates on 9/11.
My inbox was full (mostly Warden Messages
from the US consulate in Dubai) but

I couldn’t get through on the phone to
anyone back in Arlington. The vice
president came to my office (I was

surprised she actually knew where
it was) and assured me that the
corporation was offering its full

support, though I was never told
exactly what that was supposed
to mean. When I got home from

work there were armed guards
outside my apartment tower
and my husband, like everyone else

was hypnotized by the TV news.
A few hours later a young Emirati
was arrested in front of the Hard

Rock Café. He’d been firing a rifle
at buildings, cars, sand hills
piles of broken concrete and

rebar. The security threat
was reevaluated, the consulate
sent out additional warnings

memos from the vice president’s
office reaffirmed their support, more
guards appeared in the car park

and we huddled in The Bunker over
stale beer and a Spandexed Filipino cover
band. They laundered money through

Emirati banks. Some of the hijackers
were Emirati. There’s going to be
a curfew.
The next day we learned

that the man who shot up the Hard
Rock had recently failed his college
entrance exams, for the second time

and his grandfather had just died. It
had nothing to do with 9/11, anti-
Americanism or me.

 

Seoul. Jichuk Stn. 2:43 am.

a thin man in turtleneck
brings up phlegm, spits
onto the platform, puts his arm

around the steel support
beam and urinates
over the train tracks

 

Seoul. Apgujeong Stn. 3:06 am.

bent-backed woman with a
plastic bag of root vegetables
shuffles down the staircase

one of her bedroom slippers
is coming off
she stops for a moment to get it back on

 

image: Emma Sovich


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