The Cows Said Mu

Oh Captain My Captain

My ears were a satellite. I picked up signals from the universe. Peter and his wife Gabby gave me the bed with the new foam mattress that conformed to the shape of your body. The bed was high up off the floor and I was floating. I had cartoon dreams with cartoon erections. My skin was moving while I slept. The skin around my nipples. I turned and twisted the little knobs. Static. Hiss. Static. Hiss. Jaja jumjum jajja jumjum. Static. Hiss. etc.

The Orifices

In a typical mammalian body such as the human body, the external orifices are:

1) The nostrils for breathing and smell
2) The eyes for seeing and crying
3) The mouth for eating, breathing, and sound
4) The ear canals for hearing
5) The anus for shit and sex
6) The urethra for pissing and ejaculating
7) The vagina for sex bleeding and birthing

Other animals may have other orifices. I was looking for another orifice.


I told the receptionist it was a life or death situation and the doctor gave me little elliptical pills. The elliptical pills made it so when I washed the dishes I just washed the dishes. I got up every morning at 6 a.m. and walked on the elliptical machine at the Gym.

I played ultimate Frisbee with my dog. Two hairy animals and a round disk. Moon or no moon.

Like a dictation exercise a large white sheet covered two of my four walls. It said: shed the flesh. After that comes nu skin. Not that brand Nu Skin. Real new skin. Under that was a drawing of snake eating it’s tail. I didn’t go to art school for nothing.

When friends saw me walking down the avenues of Greensboro, humming tunes and looking like a beanpole, they thought there was something wrong. But I just smiled and said exercise.

The doctor who gave me the elliptical pills made me see another doctor and that doctor had made me draw diamonds and then figure eights. I drew two circles for the figure eight. Two circles on their side. And the doctor said hm. Hm the doctor said. Hm.

I was given more pills. The other pills were yellow and were meant for seizures. The yellow pills and the elliptical pills were an experimental cocktail.

A few months later I saw ads for teaching English abroad and all you needed was some kind of BA. I had a BA in art and I spoke English. I tingled around my nipples so I packed my bags for Seoul, Korea. To teach English.

The Numbskulls

It was a bumpy ride. At some point the oxygen masks dropped. It was nothing like the video. When we arrived in South Korea there was much fanfare. One of the passengers explained. A man with a sing songy name. He said that the plane had clipped some migrating birds. It could have been one of those huge catastrophic things but it wasn’t. The pilot was a hero. Everyone kissed the ground. Or hugged their shoes. Everyone except me. I didn’t know what to believe.

I was swept up by a group of very very small children singing some song about a ballon flower. They were skipping around the Incheon airport. Skipping skipping skipping. They were called The Numbskulls. Their tight little blue t-shirts said that. The Numbskulls. I figured there were too many of them to be some kind of band. Perhaps they were a baseball team. I’d read that baseball was big in Korea. They were joyous little numbskulls.

The Doors

I was a collector of wisdom and I’d read somewhere about doors. About how if you follow your bliss doors will open for you that wouldn’t open for someone else. I think it was that myth expert Joseph Campbell. I could have followed those Numbskulls but that wasn’t my orifice. The little voices told me so. Plus I didn’t get the burning in his bosom. Or the tingling in my nipples.

There was a Green Felt sitting down at an internet cafe.  My brain went door plus question mark. So I edged up. The first thing I noticed was the smell. The Green Felt was munching on some ancient eggs. I asked him if he spoke English. He did. I asked him if he knew of any cheap long term accommodation in Seoul. The Green Felt did. But first he told me to follow the yellow lines leading straight out of the airport. I heard the song. Follow the yellow brick road. But I was no Dorothy. I hadn’t even been to Kansas. The Green Felt told me to stay in a goshiwon. He made me say it a few times. Goshiwon. Goshiwon. Goshiwon.


The driver wanted to practice his English. It turned out he was the owner of some place called Wonderland. He said it was the perfect goshiwon.

I got a free pair of sandals when I arrived. Lime green plastic and waterproof. For the communal shower.

The goshiwon was one small room. One small room with a bar above my head to hang clothes. Quite a few residents spoke English. Sometimes they added extra syllables here and there or made up new words. This was called Konglish. A mix of Korean and English. They studied all day and watched Korean game shows in the evenings.

The smell of kimchee wafted in from the kitchen morning noon and night. When I went outside I could smell caterpillar lava boiling from the street stalls.

A Raft but Not a Destination

She said her English name was Vicky. She had an extra large head but a small petite body. She advised me on buying the right kind of Canon. She said the one that said made in Japan was better than the one that said made in China. Even if they looked exactly the same.

I wandered around the city taking pictures. I looked through that particular orifice and snapped snapped snapped. But carefully. I held my breath until I framed it. Everything is about framing. Then released my breath on the snap. Mindful. I deleted all the pictures. A camera was only an instrument. A raft but not a destination.

Rice Lanterns

I liked the paper lanterns. They were made of rice paper and you could see through them in the light. I found them at Gyeongbok Palace.

The Cows Said Mu

A dorm type small fridge was half open and there was some lumpy milk. A rotten cabbage. Probably meant for some long forgotten kimchee. The Man pulled out a long scroll. Burned around the edges. So it looked ancient. There were little stick figures in various positions holding various religious poses. Like praying. The Man ran his fingers through his long gray hair. I tried to look at him a bit more closely but The Man’s eyes were somewhere else.

The Man said he had to put his hands on my head. To read my skull. This was the only way. And that’s what he did. Put his hands right on my head and muttered some babble.

When he spoke his breath smelled like old kimchee.

An old lady sat in the corner of the room with a tape deck. A stick of an old lady with a tattered army jacket. I could hear the rewinds and stops. The tape spinning. She offered to translate and transcribe the mumbles of The Man for a small fee. I paid up at the end of my session. But the dictation never arrived. I waited and waited. The cows said mu. TC Mark

image – Shutterstock

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