He had returned to Hongseong, still robust,
he had returned to care for his ailing brother,
and he walked up the strand of grey
toward Hongju High School, the soccer field
stubbled-green, to his left, still much the same.
2070? Was it 2070 already? Students streaming out
wore similar uniforms, students fresh
as the summer wind expressing a highway
of floating dandelion seeds. His wife passed away
two years before and his two sons worked abroad,
phoning twice, maybe three times a year.
There'd been no explosions, no grand griefs for years.
It had been a convenient marriage, quiet tenderness
blanketing husband and wife now and again,
with Chuseok coming around every year,
with outings and road trips punctuating every year,
with family life, its turmoils, laughter, keeping up
appearances now bubbling forth as so many dreams...
And now he was here, by the soccer field, students
streaming by... He recalled himself, his friends
running in the field, himself swept up in anticipation,
kicking the ball within the thrall of anticipation...
He was going to make a mark in his field
and the school would remember he once studied here.
He'd travel worldwide, invited to conferences,
invited to deliver lectures throughout all of Europe,
and maybe he'd settle in America.
The old man walked on, passed the soccer field, toward
the pink-petalled tree that he hoped was there,
his hope fulfilled. The space underneath flared
with the memory of her whom he wooed and loved,
whom he loved well after circumstances
had parted them cities away.
And the school hallways - how they glowed with her image,
how reddened they were with her laughter...
How deliciously sad her image stood alone...
How strange it seemed that he then anticipated
finer, fiercer loves than his pretty stepping stone.
How many sleepless nights had he slogged it out,
the examinations ******* him...
How many were the anxieties, worries
pressing in upon him...
Yet how strangely faint
and shadowy the memory had become -
and almost quaint.
Even his wife's youthful image, her imagined glow,
the glow of his feelings then, had become
a faded cloth,
his quarrels with his two sons, at times explosive,
more faded patterns on the cloth...
Yet what had moved him here - what intimation
had been stirred in the soccer field's grass,
in the tree's pink petals? What was it about her,
his first flame evoking the marriage
of sadness and delight that eluded the blur?
Though the desks were different, though the hallway walls
and classrooms had different colors sewn,
a different melody rippling from a xylophone,
something of hers remained, a freshness
encompassing the pink petals, field's green,
a freshness whose face spoke of what's serene.
When he held her hand or ran in the field,
though his thoughts had sometimes taken him far afield,
few habits had hardened. He was still a soul
that like the wind passing through the grass and tree
was simply itself, not committed to a goal,
though the mind was a weaver of countless themes,
his mind prone to a rainbow of dreams.
She had moved him deeply: when they were together,
being was strung to being - being glowed -
youthful vigor, moments savored, possibility
shimmering, woven wonderfully together...
Twilight was coming on, spreading throughout the school,
its net reaching the soccer field and tree.
The old man began descending the strand of grey.
As he walked farther and farther away,
passing the street where she once had lived,
passing the multi-colored, blinking score
of PC rooms, singing rooms, and many a store,
habitual thoughts coalesced, clustered again;
he was back with his familiar self again,
the one he knew well for over fifteen years...
The indelible mark not made in his field,
the conferences imagined became the themes,
vibrant ones once again of unrealized dreams.
Still, he was well off, had been served plates enough
of recognition, respect and esteem.
And he was happy to see his brother again -
after more than ten years seeing him again -
happy to help, try to help a brother pull through
whose circumstances bore a darker hue.
Hongseong is a county in South Korea. "Chuseok" is the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.