Recollections of Han

Posted by in Poems, The East

As evening approaches,
And night extends the sky’s expanse,
A neon canopy is cast over the vast extent
Of Seoul’s story unfolding
Framed by bustling traffic and avenues aflood with people.
A tale reflected in the quiet river,
Soulful and scenic,where its Han runs deep,
Its water forever infused with history’s narrative
And composed by nature’s recurring chronicle.

I arrived before the dawn of humanity and watched the mountains rise above
Bearing the surges and torrents of time, then the lingering calm of peace in awe of
The generations of men who grow and wither, live and love.

I have weathered winters and watched the birth of spring,
Rolled through the swelter of summer and carried the leaves of fall,
Mirroring the lives of those who built their huts at water’s edge, great and small,
Their reflection shimmering in the day’s haze to the sound of cicadas
And beaded with light in the scented night to elate us

I have heard the din of great deeds and inspired the poets to passion
And for those who come to reflect, I ripple and listen

I am the color ancient – the rivers flow,
The scent of Seoul, its coursing heart below

I am the Han

(Of Han and History)

Many kingdoms came to claim me, and I sat silent at their feet for a spell,
By-and-by they came to dust, yet my veins still stream with life’s swell.

My icy banks served the last Joseon king and lord
To preserve and send him in a procession that would strike a chord.
I was there when thousands fled south as the thunder roared
And held back the tide of fury as many attempted the ford.

Some 600 years, I’ve watched the city grow and people dwell,
As I rolled from the slopes of Daedeok in a swell
Joined by the gush of Geumgang gathered from the north,
With the humors of one Korea to join hands in Han and issue forth

Coursing into the Yellow Sea,
I cut across the landscape, rolling through Seoul’s history
I flow with han and happiness, miracle and mystery
Equally north and south, I know no borders
And when I rise, I flood by my orders

I am the Han and I am history

(Power and Privilege)

I am power, patient yet unstoppable, the eternal flow,
Shapeless, I run as raindrops, amassing might as I grow
Splitting stones and smashing boulders in my rush to lower land
My course may bend, but I bow to no man
… and none can contain my spirit

I am peace, nature’s enduring refuge, a place to grow
I am the welcome wind over cool water, the bearer of dewdrops and the channel of rain flow,
The scent of the storm, the river reborn

I am the yin and yang of ecology amended,
The river renewed its progress appended.

I am Han and I am hope

(From Rise to Renaissance)

I have watched the flood of humanity rise at my banks,
Seen the rolling hills turn to cement pillars in ranks,
Its carts to cars and serenity to speed, rabid with urbanization and blank

I’ve seen bridges built to span my breadth, and watched the wheels of time roll by
Soon to see the neon lights splashed about, blaring through the once still sky

I became the symbol of Seoul’s manufacturing miracle,
Felt footprints fall, weathered the tire tracks of industry and endured the metal plates of progress
I have known the wicked by the toxic runoff, and seen heroes made and lost
I have seen the guiltless die and the victorious weep at the cost

I balked and became a symbol of Seoul’s renaissance,
Transforming in tranquility, rebuilt and restful, calm and comfortable in response
I have fed kings and peasants, families and foes, secret lovers and lost souls
And welcomed them to share in meditation or wash away mountains of woes

You unsettled souls, come and renew
I am the Han River tested and true

I am the Han
And I am home

(An Aside)

I too have sat by the Han and listened to the quiet and the din
heard tell of those who had come before, and those who will again.
I have seen mountains of trash turned to family parks
And murky waters transform to await the song of larks
I’ve seen the footprints of progress slowly swept away
As its founding spirit return to mark a new day
I too am the Han and here is my home