“A Season in Hell”
“When you come in to work each morning,
Remove your bodily organs and limbs
one by one. Hang them up on the hooks provided in
the walk-in box, then put a white apron
onto your disembodied self, pick up a knife,
and go to the meat block,” said Alex the manager.
I was also drained of blood and other vital bodily fluids.
After the morning rush preparing pork adobo and chicken curry, I
ate lunch with Fong the chief cook and Lee the dishwasher.
In the afternoon, I examined souls and kept their merits and demerits in a ledger.
For the three months I worked at City Lunch near the Bart Station,
I paid my rent and gradually became robust enough to walk to work.
The entire city of San Francisco swung with the rhythm of my walk,
and stars appeared in the middle of the afternoon with a sliver of the moon.
Meanwhile, at Fisherman’s Wharf, the stingrays came to the jetty
and whipped their tails against rocks; tourists paid me to dance on
the waves. I carefully tread water and remembered to breathe.
In the end, I was evicted anyway from my castle that glowed at night.
For lack of anything better to do, I walked from hilltop to hilltop,
burned newspapers to inhale the smoke, then climbed down to the water
beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and harvested seaweed.
I waited until one sunny day when the water was warm and calm,
then swam all the way to Asia and got replacements for my disembodied self.
I did not forget that I was a ghost. And
that was my first season in Hell.
Koon Woon, “paper son” name for Locke Kau Koon, is from Nanon Village in Guangdong Province of the PRC. He immigrated to the USA in 1960 at age 11 from Hong Kong. He is fourth-generation immigrant to the USA from the Locke family. He owes his progress in poetry from the red dirt and the short pines he found beyond his second-maternal Uncle Li Gar Sum’s house in Bow Lung Village, and in America, the kettle moraines of Wisconsin where his dear friend Betty Irene Priebe helped him come back from the private hell of mental illness. Koon Woon’s first book of poems is The Truth in Rented Rooms (Kaya Press, 1998). His second book of poems, Water Chasing Water, is soon available from Kaya Press (NY, NY), under the astute and kind guidance of his editor/publisher Sunyoung Lee. He lives in Seattle.