Fort Dobong, Seoul, South Korea

spending the summer with you at Dobong-dong our friendly childhood neighborhood at the upper side of Seoul babysitting the children with bursting energy like how we were at their age placed me back into our days we spent in the corner of the same playground between the concrete walls next to the metal swings the one with old paint with red flakes scent of rust drifting along the wind

i still remember when we would come back from school running on the purple bricks lining along the vines of roses covering the fences along freshly painted medium rise apartments of Dobong Street secretly sprinting to our secret spot we dug the sandbox to find big and small pebbles which we made into barriers as if it were our own castle with high walls sturdy in battles and storms

when my goldfish’s orange scales no longer glittered we cried together in our small corner and made a funeral for the fish we buried the pale orange fish in front of our shelter making it our guard we would scurry to its grave when we missed its soft glimmer along the still water

before my move to a new neighborhood we would often hide there hoping that time would stop the cement barriers had now turned cold and only the cicadas cried in the summer heat

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how to move to a new home

when light bounces off each furniture shining
the house in different shades
the brown oak bookshelves
are full like how blocks are slanted and angled to fit in tetris
each chair and pictures on the walls
seem to occupy their area
resembling fierce dogs with sharp teeth
out to defend their territory

throw away the old plastic raincoat with faded cherry blossoms
the one that you ran in across
the sidewalk of Dobong Street next to Jungnang River
you splashing along the puddles

the small old red and yellow hanbok you used to wear
every Lunar New Year and Chuseok is now drenched in dust
its bright colors under the shadows of your closet
pass the clothes down to your cousins
who will now be the small kid twirling in the gown
when families gather on holidays

the blue kite with an eagle soaring to the sky
now crashed to a corner of your room
a kite you ran with your cousins by the Han River
make the eagle fly but never succeeded

sort what you will take to your new home
the lucky charm the bright red bokjumeoni
the one which elders put money in for luck
the one whose giant gold letters
you never forgot to bring with you to piano recitals

the pale brown boxes
seem to smell like yellow eunhaeng leaves fanning the scent of rotten eggs
stacked by the banks of the Jungnang River
may not bag everything in this neighborhood

(but it’s enough to be carried around)

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Daechi

Within the tall skyscrapers is Daechi-dong,
a small neighborhood
low-rise apartments surrounded by pine trees

i

Take the 340 Seoul city bus,
notice the streets of Yeongdong-daero
crowds of students gazing onto the roads
blazing horns of cars,
you will reach Woosung Apartments
when the plastic sheets covered on the bus seats
start to feel uncomfortable

ii

you will notice the security office,
where the apartment guard Mr. Park works in.
see him
raking up the yellow eunhaeng leaves in autumn,
plowing the snow in the parking lot in winter,
watering the azalea flowers in spring.

iii

Walk along the streets lined with Aspen pine,
a scent of freshly printed books
wafts from Mr. Kim’s Eunma Bookstore.
His son Jaeho helps arrange the books in the shelf
but you see The Cat in the Hat next to Justice.

And then you realize,
all the news on media
drew nothing of this place

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Catherine Shim is a high school junior, and throughout her life she has constantly moved to different areas and across different countries: South Korea, United States, and the Philippines. She loves drinking milk tea and singing with her friends. Most of her works are from her experiences of moving and memories with her family.