A story, "The Mystic Dog" has been published in October Hill Magazine, Fall 2022, Volume 6
A poem, "The Halo," has been published in Soundings East, Volume 42, Spring 2020.
A poem, "David pour Homme," has been published in October Hill Magazine, Spring 2020 Issue.
"One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken."
"You are not too old and it is not too late to dive into your increasing depths where life calmly gives out its own secret."
~Rainer Maria Rilke
© Therese Young Kim
Dear my website visitors:
How fast time passes with our joys, sorrows, calamities, as well as blessed miracles in our lives! Here we are now in early January 2023, and I thank you so much for visiting Your Sentimental Stranger. To celebrate the brilliant color of humanity in us and a dog, I’d like to introduce a story, “The Mystic Dog.”
“The Mystic Dog” is a story based on my apartment living in New York City,
painting the neurotic side of human interaction and a dog called Rudolph, with his mystic side, as a little drama of New York charm.
I thank Richard Merli, Editorial Director and Samantha Morley, Managing Editor
Wishing you very healthy and happy New Year, most dearly, Therese Young Kim
The Mystic Dog
Following my divorce, I moved into a modest studio apartment in uptown Manhattan. I was suffering from melancholy like a wounded cat, but grateful for the little place I found to live and for the occasional work I was getting as a tree-lance translator. A few weeks had passed when I ran into my neighbor living across the hallway, Miss Wade, in the elevator.
Neither of us greeted each other then, which was not unusual in apartment living in a crowded city like New York.
She was a tall, lanky woman in her early sixties and rather handsome, despite a stern look in her brown eyes. Although I soon learned that Miss Wade had recently retired from a city university, she had a dog called Rudolph. The name was a mystery to me, for he was a complete antithesis of that genial, red-nosed reindeer with strait blondish fir, some with elegant horns. This Rudolph had tightly curled jet-black fur that shone with a metallic sheen, making me wonder if he was a black sheep impersonating a dog.
Sometimes I would see Rudolph walking through the lobby with Miss Wade, who moved slowly with her shoulders hunched forward as if weighed down by the mountain of thoughts. Rudolph walked like a rumba dancer in a slow motion, obviously trying to keep the pace down for his mistress. He looked around 29 in human age and thin, perhaps a bit too thin, and fit like a long-distant runner. His spine was perfectly aligned to the back of his head, and he had luster in his eyes like the orient of black pearls, that were fixed upon the invisible sphere before him, only visible to himself, thus exuding an air of canine mystique. In that mode, he seemed to be trying hard not to upstage his mistress in any manner or form without even lifting his eyes to assess her mood.
One afternoon I found myself standing face-to-face with Miss Wade in the elevator again. This time I decided to say hello with a decent smile, to which she responded by curling her lips like a sneer. As if embarrassed or in camaraderie with his mistress, Rudolph kept his tail pointed down between his legs. As an admirer of certain dogs without owning one, whenever I saw a dog dainty and lovely like the other Rudolph, I would gently approach it and say in my funny lilt, “G-o-o-d d-o-g,” for which, to my utter delight, I would get a wag from the dog, sometimes a smile from the owner, until the depression killed my sunny spontaneity following the divorce.
One day as a good will gesture, I decided to bring Miss wade a small bowl of potato soup made from scratch. When I rang the bell and announced myself, she barely poked her grim face out the door. I apologetically explained my impromptu visit, to which she simply said, “I’m not a potato person!” Dumbstruck, I was about to turn away with my potato soup, but she hurried to say that she was invited for tea by a friend and her actor husband, Mr. Clark, living in the building, who recently had returned from California. They were to be joined by another actress friend, Sylvia, who, besides acting, read fortunes. “In fact,” she continued, ”Sylvia promised to read our palms. Of course, that includes my Rudolph!”
Amused that she was seizing the moment to talk about the invitation and her enthusiasm for the palm reading, not only for herself but also for Rudolph, I was about to wish her a good time when she shut the door in my face. I turned round with my bowl of soup and wondered if her friend also read paws of a dog. Or, knowing the mystic quality of Rudolph, I gathered he must have palms, or the actress read paws as well.
About an hour later, I rode down the elevator to run errands. As soon as the door opened, a red-haired lady, whom I quickly recognized was the fortunetelling actress, whirled in before I could get out, nearly hitting my face with her sweeping red cape. As I managed to hop out of the closing doors without being smashed, I saw a gray-haired gentleman strut out of the freight elevator in a hurry, nearly colliding with me.
Looking debonair in his gray slacks and a navy jacket over a turtleneck sweater, he wore a quiet glow of a gently aged man. I could not recall what movie he had appeared in, but there was no mistaking it was Mr. Clark. As I stood dazed from our near collision, he grinned as if he felt embarrassed by being caught for something.
“Sir” I hurried to say, “was I holding up the main elevator too long?”
He responded by stooping over me and said in his husky whisper, “My dear, I’m trying to get away from my wife’s two WRETCHED guests, and, yes, that STRANGE dog, too!”
Speechless, I watched him hurry down the lobby and out the front door as if a malevolent spirit were chasing him down. At that very moment, a dog started to bark from one of the upper floors. I wasn’t sure if it was Rudolph, for I had never heard him bark before. If it was him, perhaps he, with the fortuneteller Sylvia, was sending a bad spell onto Mr. Clark.
As often is the case in apartment living, I did not see Miss Wade for several weeks until one day, we happened to be in the elevator again. As always Rudolph was by her side. This time she surprised me not only with her “hello,” but also with the news that she had put her apartment up for sale. I was alarmed.
“Why,” I asked, “And where will you go?”
“For the quality of life,” was the answer given with her usual smirk.
Although it was not the first time I heard a retiree moving to seek quality of life, I wondered what kind of quality Miss Wade was pursuing.
“Sorry that you are leaving, but all the best to your retirement!” I said softly.
“Nothing to feel sorry!” she said without looking at me.
Whether he was listening or not, I noticed Rudolph’s ears moving slightly up, if not his tail. Then I didn’t know what came over me, but I heard myself saying to Miss Wade, “May I pat Rudolph?” She looked at me rounding her eyes like an owl as if shocked by my question, but said tepidly, “You may.”
Surprised by her permission, I froze momentarily, wondering if Rudolph would lick my bare shin with his long slimy tongue, or jump at me, even throw a spell on me. So, I gingerly and reverentially bowed from my waist and extended my hand above his head, and circled it around like a floating halo, saying softly, ever softly, “Go-o-d d-o-g, go-o-d d-o-g,” when the elevator door opened, at which Miss Wade pulled the leash hard and said, “Let’s go!”
Rather relieved to be left alone without drama and feeling celebratory that I did perform my forgotten ritual again, I let them walk ahead of me when Rudolph seemed to stall behind Miss Wade, then, lo and behold, he turned and twirled his tail twice at me! Yes, he DID wag his tail for me, only for me, firmly and quickly, behind his mistress, and it was divine!
Watching him walk somberly again with Miss Wade, who did not have a clue what her dog just had done, I went on my way, nearly flying, imagining Rudolf in the countryside where he would run, bark, and wag his tail for the pure joy of being a real dog. I also knew he would be missed for his elegant walk, black sheep’s fur, and wide black pearl eyes peering into the universe only he knew, for he is the mystic dog that gave a good riddance to my melancholy with a wag, perhaps, only perhaps, for good!
Written by © Therese Young Kim and posted January 10, 2013
(Published in October Hill Magazine, Fall 2022, Volume 6, Issue 3)
Image provided by Daewonsa,
the publisher of “천송이 목련화
(A Thousand Magnolias)”
Photo Credit: Konrad Monroe
© Therese Young Kim
Dear my visitors around the world:
Subliminally, I have been chasing the illusions of peace and beauty in all seasons of my life, in the sun and moon rising from the East Sea and the lonely island of Dokdo of my old country, over the Pacific and the New World where rainbows looked more stunning and colorful beckoning me to come. I have journeyed through the age of innocence, delicious happiness, war-ravaged, toiling with work, fleeting romance, pleasure and pain of marriage and divorce, and now piled up with years of my age of an ancient woman with a mess of silver hair, impersonating an old pigeon.
While studying in Seoul, Korea, I fell in love with English and French for their beauty of flexibility and fluidity. Although my French fell behind, it introduced me to sublime French impressionism of Monet, Manet, Flaubert, Emile Zola, and Baudelaire’s “Paris Spleen,” to name just a few. While studying English literature I discovered Hemingway, DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Chekov, Tolstoy, and Rainer Maria Rilke in English translation, as well as the music of Bach, Chopin, Mozart, on and on. At the same time, I’ve retained my native language, Korean, with its purity from an archaic culture, in which I was born, raised, educated, and loved.
Miraculously then, came the publication of “천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)” this May, which I humbly present here with my little figurines, including Korean ceramic vases and a mini bronze bell in celebration of this debut. “천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)” is a bouquet of flowers I’ve gathered from the Garden of Arts and Literature indicated above, which also enabled me to write in English as well.
Referring myself as an “ancient woman” has a double entendre in that I remember the legacy of my Old Country where the world’s very first movable metal type was invented in 1234 in Heungdeoksa Buddhist Temple in Chongju City, known as the city of education and culture in South Korea.
Thanks to this printing technology, numerous books of Buddhist teachings have been published for centuries, the first of which was called “Jikji,” meaning straightforward and honest communication in the teaching of Seon meditation. During the golden age of Korean Buddhism, countless artifacts and national treasures had been produced before they were looted and pillaged by Japan during their invasions culminating into the brutal annexation of Korea from 1910 through 1945. In September 2001 UNESCO formally designated “Jikji” as the very first manuscript printed in the world’s oldest metalloid type in Korea.
As the author of “A Thousand Magnolias,” I owe profoundly to those voiceless and courageous Korean immigrants I met while working as a court interpreter in New York and elsewhere, for the resilience and grace shown in their plight for American dream. But first and foremost, I owe to the memory of my late parents’ undying love and sacrifice, which is the spirit of this book.
I’ve gifted the book to my extended family and friends living near and far and donated three books to the Asian language acquisition department of New York Public Library, and I hope to gift more to Korean language departments in universities or libraries outside Korea, if opportunities come by.
Dear cherished visitors, thank you so much for your kind attention given to this post, and let me close with a title poem, “A Thousand Magnolias,” sending you my endless blessings to you and your loved ones!
A Thousand Magnolias
Palms gathered onto my chest
When I became a toddler
Now grown into a life of my own
I’m cradling a thousand magnolias
© Therese Young Kim
지금 내 두 손 가슴에 언고
나 좀더 자란 아기었을때
이제 내 생활터전 잡아놓고
아직도 보내지못한 천송이 목련화를
Poem, translation, photo
Hello, it is my delight to introduce one of the three poems written in English from my book in Korean published this May, “천송이 목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias),” which appears in the Poetry Page on this website. Wishing you a splendid summer!
In the hush of the arena in Vancouver Winter Olympics
Yuna slides across the ice like a snow-heron about to fly.
As she glides in Chopin,morning dawn breaks
into her timid eyes over turning shoulders.
Worlds away in Kyung-Ju Buddhist temple sits a lone
Bodhisattva etched in stone,cradling her forbidden
desire to be born a snow-dancer.
It is snowing in the silent garden of the temple.
As if in apparition, before the forlorn gaze
of Bodhisattva manifests an exquisite form of a young
woman dancing in the flurry of motion,
mirroring the dream she has dreamt for a thousand
years today. A teardrop rolls down her chiseled cheek.
In the arena, wrapped in Piano Concerto, Yuna floats
and floats in midair before landing like a snowflake
into a lotus corolla.
A million petals shower down in ovation, coronation.
Bodhisattva, bathed in karmic ecstasy on lotus
pedestal, slowly folds her crescent eyes smiling
like rippling silk—
Yuna: Korean figure-skating gold medalist in 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Bodhisattva: A lady deity with a mission to save others before entering Nirvana
in Buddhism. (The poem from my book “천송이목련화 (A Thousand Magnolias)”
Published by Daewonsa Publishing Co, Seoul, Korea.)
©Therese Young Kim, July 8, 2022
The Diving Sun (Ember of Love) by Therese Young Kim
|Dear My Distinguished Web Guests: |
It has been nine months since the Coronavirus pandemic took us the prisoners of epic tragedy around the world, which feels more like nine years. But time rushes by as always and we are here like homecoming heroes from a war that is still raging. It makes us wonder what it is to have a normal life in the way we used to live, like breathing the air without thinking of it, or enjoy the sun shine on our bare faces, or walk around without distancing the strangers.
A staggering number of deaths have occurred every day, patients dying all alone, separated from their loved ones. Feelings of pain and grief are universal while it can be self-healing with passage of time, as the memory of love ripens as years go by. I know because I was there once, albeit a long time ago, under different circumstances.
When the sun is golden, I, like a sunflower, would breeze out of my cluttered apartment for the day. After fussing over the breakfast, I would check the email, make a call or two before getting dressed. Then I would pack my oversized laptop in my wheeled luggage with padded layers to protect from the bumpy Manhattan sidewalks, together with a small bag stuffed with my leggings for a gym visit.
My laptop holds the world of my poetry, stories, and a novel, ‘Nayoung’s Journey,’ that were written years ago and still being edited or rewritten on and off. Some were conceived while I was roaming around, listening to the rhythm and cadence of the city crowd and the melodious sounds of foreign languages brushing by my ear.
Therese in the Sunlight by Konrad Monroe
© Therese Young Kim
The store is bright with florescent light, showering shelves of designer perfumes, cosmetics, medicines, toiletries and whatnot.
An elderly couple walk in. The frail, stooped man appears to be in his early nineties as he walks clinging onto the arm of the foot-taller woman in her late seventies. She is a blonde with her hair teased up like a cotton candy. Remnants of certain contours suggest she was once stunning, although her face has sagged into ample pouches around her chin and neck. Heavy swirls of rouge and uneven purple lipstick appear to have been applied in poor light.
The woman’s leopard hat projects a slightly decadent chic. Her black-leather boots have two-inch heels and creep tightly over her thick calves, revealing the lumpy knees below her tight buttery- leather black skirt.
The man’s over sized overcoat suggests he has shrunken considerably over the years as he stands before the sales counter with his lady, who is looking up at the sales clerk with a great anticipation. They seem glued to one another, straining up the neck rather painfully.
”What d’you want, ma’am?” asks the sales clerk, peering down the couple.
Photo From the Collection by © Therese Young Kim
A Lithograph 140/140 by W. Sellier
”I want a Lancôme lipstick!”
The sales clerk considers the woman’s purple lips and then pulls a tube of lipstick from the Lancôme section, removing the cap and holding up the exposed stick between her red-enameled fingertips.
“Is this the color you want, Ma’am?”
The woman narrows her eyes, and nearly sniffs the lipstick.
Looking exasperated by having stood for a considerable moment on his unsteady legs, the man turns his thin neck painfully toward his lady, as if he were dying to know the lipstick is the color she wants.
”HOU-nee, eez this leap-stick what you wan--?” From such a frail looking man, the voice sounds surprisingly loud.
Ignoring his question, the woman continues staring at the lipstick, seemingly suspended in indecision or in a reverie of some kind. The old man waits patiently in silence like a loyal dog, as if all that mattered in his remaining life was to find his lady the perfect lipstick.
Finally, she flutters her eyelashes overloaded with black mascara, as if she got a solution, opens her thin purse, and fishes out the old tube of lipstick. In her trembling hand, she brings the tube’s purple nub near the tube in the clerk’s hand and firmly announces.
”I want ex - AC - tly the color of this one!”
”Ma’am, this is in fact almost ex - AC - tly the color, except that the company has changed your color a little over the years.”
The woman tips her head to the side. Her man leans and moans into her ear, ”HOU-nee, she tells it’s almost ex - AC - tly the same color!” He then watches her purple lips longingly, waiting for assent.
He waits. And he waits, aware that she is determined to remain beautiful. A glimmer of hope lights up his blue eyes as if he was assured that there will be one more night to cuddle and be cuddled, breath to breath.
(Published in ROSEBUD as a Gardner winner, Issue 40)
By Therese Young Kim
New York, NY
Copyright © 2014
The autumn sun is sinking behind a jagged Manhattan skyline like a huge Halloween pumpkin bleeding into a plum-pink twilight. Standing with a cup of honeyed jasmine tea behind my window on the top floor of a ten-story redbrick building, browned with the time, I’m listening to the seamless procession of Chopin’s Preludes streaming from my CD player in. The music, so elegant, languorous, and suffused with the colors of French impressionist paintings, I feel I’m in heaven in my cluttered studio apartment.Behind the Blinds
Just when I drank up the bottom nectar of the sweet tea remaining in the cup, and the music changing into a waltz, I notice a man moving behind a window of the high-rise twice taller than my building—taller, but it looks one dimensional and artless on its modern façade. There is another building separating us, which is a story lower than mine with a quaint-looking water tank, which looks like a plank turret standing on one side of the roof. Diagonally behind that tank, I can only see him in fuzzy profile from a distance, but clearly enough to recognize the man’s physique.
His large picture window standing somewhat parallel to my smaller one, I remember seeing him a few times behind that window before. Built stocky, he has closely-knit thick eyebrows under a crown of dark bushy hair over massive shoulders ― massive, but not in an athletic way. I imagine he may have patches of mossy chest hair that extend to the back of his shoulders and upper arms.
I now see him slowly pacing around the room, his frame a bit hunched forward like a bear looking for prey, clasping and unclasping his hands as if consumed in some sort of dark scheme. As I feel his intensity spilling on me through that distance, I narrow my glare over him like a sly fox. Dressed in a pair of dark baggy slacks and a loose shirt without a tie, I presume he could be a divorce lawyer, an accountant, or a theatrical director.
Before I know, he stops pacing and bends over a large briefcase on the floor, and pulls out what looks like a brown folder. As if he were aware of being watched by someone over his shoulder, but not once looking out the window, he moves ever cautiously. If he did look in my direction, I don’t think he could detect my small frame snug behind my partly drawn flimsy curtain. After a bit of hesitation, he sticks the folder under his armpit and walks to an adjoining room, which appears to be a bedroom with its own window.
In that room, I notice a small figure seated in an armchair. By the brownish long wavy hair flowing over the side of the chair, it is a young woman. He now walks to her, bends over, and says something. The woman nods, gets up from her chair, and walks to the window. She rolls down a blind, walks to the living room, and rolls down that window’s blind as well.
Although I no longer see them behind those closed blinds, I know that she is not the tall lithesome blonde I used to see in that apartment over the past six months or so. Every once in a while I’d notice the lovely blonde when she was there. She used to move around the dinner table behind the window, entertaining guests, occasionally waving her bare arms while she talked to someone, just like in a silent movie. Whatever the occasion, the couple usually had about six people around the table under a large chandelier that glowed in multiple hues, reminding me of a small cruise boat floating on the Hudson River on summer nights. I wasn’t even aware he had blinds then, since no one ever rolled them down.
But tonight, there is a new lady in that apartment ― a shorter brunette with a fuller figure ― and the blinds are lowered as if all that had been going on with his blonde was to be obliterated by his new brunette, who hurled down the blinds, like the curtain failing at the end of a play. All I see now is the pale metallic sheen from the closed blinds, reflecting the frailty of the night, of the human psyche, mocking me and my Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu.
"Behind the Blinds" was published in ROSEBUD #59 in 2015. It also appears at Tuck Magazine link: http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/04/05/fiction-8/)
By Therese Young Kim
New York, NY
Copyright © 2014
Dear Readers, your questions or comments posted here will be kindly honored.