DaDeumie SoRi

At last. I think perhaps I understand,
standing at this bus’s rest-stop half
the way to Seoul; sweet guitars abloom
in my ears, and coffee steam a haze
around my face, standing, silently
staring. The woman absently sweeps
the floor, puts coffee on, bringing out
the breads, arranges the newspapers,
turns around the doorway’s closed sign.
Someone else’s drabbest morning chores
from outside, fascinate. Some strange
mesmerism is at work in these dull things:
irreplaceable, necessary. Imagine…
the world’s things, every one where it belongs.

— Gord Sellar,
Published in Diet Soap #4

The DaDeumie is a traditional tool of the traditional Korean housewife. In the times preceding the use of modern heated irons, clothes were pressed by beating them with the DaDeumie, a pair of unweildy wooden sticks that were used in a method somewhat reminiscent of a drummer practicing patterns on a snare drum… a constant tok-tok-tok-tok-tok sound of the cloth muffling the impact of the wood against the stone beneath was the result. As the Korean word for “sound” is SoRi, this sound was called the DaDeumie SoRi. According to a a student and friend of mine, this sound was famously described by a scholar or poet as one of the five most beautiful sounds in Korea. When I first heard this, I was shocked at the idea that a rather cumbersome and taxing physical task that wives were stuck performing could be beautiful. But now, I think I understand a little… the question of whose work, and how it is performed, is less the issue of beauty than the fact that when done it is a part of that dream we humans have to have a well-ordered world around us, and well-ordered selves within, so that the inner and outer tranquility and order are a tinned reflection of one another; nobody can say which reflects which, but the harmony is apparent to all, just the same.

By the way, I have tried the DaDeumie, and let me tell you, those housewives must have been strong and had great endurance.

Oh, and, let it be known this is only the second draft of this poem. I may change it later. But my friend Sun Hwa asked to see it, so I have posted it.

September 21, 2003

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