Four New Poems, December 12, 2013 Copyright Doug Stuber 2013

The Five Masters

Family, job, routine, money, self, but if unlucky or unwise
turn into contempt, hell, addiction, debt and alone. No longer
in control, we could lose the chance for creativity, love, giving,
empathy and kindness. It takes motivation not to be swallowed,
bravery to trust love, hard work to able to give, supreme faith to
wade into, no less swim, in the muddied waters of spirituality, but
kindness and love can meld easily just by not being alone, accepting
others for who they are, and a modicum of self- preservation. The
Blue Jay, warns others, yet is vicious, and has no friends. Do not
turn your child into a referee of a never-ending argument that
started so long ago no one remembers what the real difference is.
This child will find ways to create arguments to be his addiction
or she will pick a mate knowing his proclivity to rage, and having
forgotten or never learned how romance can douse any steaming
head, knows by rote the list of buttons to push in order to crank
up the next volleys that cause her own children to cry. These
unfortunate youngsters then start verbal wars at school, with
teachers and could-be friends, but few can tolerate this, the only
“love” comes from the equally unkind lost victims: it takes ten
generations to cure. “Be Kind” Vonnegut said. Be your own master.

The Daily Bread

In uniforms they toil, sewing sneakers, cramming seaweed
into plastic, working a paper cutter, repetitive motion carpal
tunnel, until one slip cuts a digit off. Drenched, the boss screams
about the ruined ream. Grandmothers sort fish on low stools
as their sons’ set sail again, netting the last ten percent of the
Halibut. Others push mud-sleds: one arthritic knee bent, one
propelling in single-meter moves, to dig and collect Beolgyo’s
cockles, prized “Gomak.” Our soup tastes great today, but will
it be delicious when machines replace this last generation, Gomak
extinct, replaced by fish parts (remember Scallops before “sea
scallops?) Here’s another wading in rubber boots ,eighty one years
old, hauling wet heavy kelp that Koreans favor for soup and to
wrap rolled rice as “Gim Bop,” more than seaweed rice, usually
packed with crab, fried eggs and cucumbers, part of a series
of healthy snacks that sell for student-level prices off carts, or
are mother-made, filling backpacks. If you throw in the work it
takes to bring these items to market, and the workers who wait
then sell; the kitchen preparation, all required, rarely calculated,
but a symbol of the typical daily sacrifice fisherman, farmers,
and factory workers make (low cash flow included) for all of us.

The Bowdoin Essay

Pine straw softens stairs ,eight steps for arthritic knees
that otherwise would have hurt. Each day he loyally waits
for his old man, though he’d rather run ahead and walk with
friends. See them walking through the woods, bundled, windy
winter slashing, insistent drivers who make the on crosswalk
on the way menacing. Kids three years younger walk alone,
but this father and son team have a lot more riding on these
800 meters than Olympic stars or quarreling siblings. Both know
dad’s too old, both already squeeze every ounce out of each day.
Tenuous life has already presented shocking assaults, so the work-
hard, play-hard combo (witness Charlottesville) comes out earlier
in ole Gwangju, as stress piles for 9-year-olds with year-end exams
that ask more questions than can be answered in the allotted 40
minutes, thus preparing youngsters for the battery that continues
through to jobs and beyond. dads and sons don’t walk to school in
Orange County, USA, maybe mom drives them, or bus picks them:
how lucky this dad is, and multi-cultured son who knows so many
different ways of looking at the world ,all good, just different. “Why
is school so different here?” he asks, dad smiles, “because everything is
riding on your test score here, not just which school, but even your major.

Middle Age

A Child’s hat adorned with rabbit ears and faux-fir strap snapped
tight on a small-nosed child is painted on the big blue wall and
a direct shot from the second-floor window seating at Dunkin’
Donuts, the one across, appropriately, from Golden Rabbits and
Gallery D. What does this matter? Because slow walking men
and scurrying, smoking academy students start the cold day’s
flow, along with young police, dreary-eyed restaurant owners who
sign for uncooked food delivery, and our yellow-clad yogurt-cart
lady who makes her first deliveries of the day. She’s got milk,
cheese, well, tasteless cheese, but still, and sweetened strawberry,
chocolate and banana drinks too, in case a monied child stops her
between classes (a bonus sale!). You wouldn’t believe the miles
people walk to make meager profits. The sheer number of shop
owners suggests that many have “off” months . Ah, but coffee, the
insane culture that means you’re never allowed to entertain at home,
spreads like leprosy, replacing lost digits with drinks sweeter than
maple syrup. An irreparable trick knee ends yogurt walks or old
man cardboard collection. It will slow or stop large-pot vegetable
gardens in the city too. Your son runs ahead to school with friends.
His independent spirit soars. You lose your mind and cry about this,
the second sign you won’t be young forever. What a sap. Get to work.