battered but Unbroken – a Poem

by Kellyn Gross

being battered but Unbroken

being battered but Unbroken is presence

standing at the squat pedestal of bygone King Sejong

standing on two feet in defiance of police protecting the Stars and Stripes

while some are wheelchair-bound

affirming that you don’t need to be able to stand

to stand for something

where badged spokesmen warn through megaphones to let bygones be bygones

under an altar of 300 Korean martyrs to the cause of social justice

their captured smiles in the muggy heat

burnt incense and sobs breaking silence

being battered but Unbroken is remembrance

unity in view of Bugak Mountain

where tigers once roamed in this granite fortress

protectors of the dead

ancient animal symbols of reverence and the summer sun

that gives way to monsoon rains in June

feared creatures by Hanseong citizens whose shamans called upon mountain deities

to banish them

only to be displaced dynasties later by the rains of empire and enterprise

protectors of capital

being battered but Unbroken is belonging

whether Korean  Egyptian  Libyan

Syrian  Greek  Turkish  Brazilian

confronting shady deals  disorder  destitution

brutality  austerity  shopping malls

World Cups where the World’s Poor are cast aside

the oppressed on all continents solemnly vowing an end to suffering no matter the threats

no matter the rubber bullets  real-deal bullets   bombs and concrete prisons

there will be days of revolution

there will be nights of camaraderie and candor

being battered but Unbroken is power

not the ascendancy of Park Geun Hye or the lasting legacy of Gaddafi

not the brutality of al-Assad or the hegemony of Erdogan

but the prerogative of the people

when enough is enough

and a wave of disillusionment flows in

IMF refugees dismantling despotism

burdened hearts sloughing off layers of fear  exploitation  abuse

unmasking injustice

reclaiming space for healing and renewal

being battered but Unbroken is declaration

toojaeng shouted in Gwanghwamun Plaza

Turk istiklalini graffitied in Taksim Square

vem pra rua chanted in Sao Paulo’s streets

the spectacle of terror forced into a dialectic with reality

because this is bigger than any evening news program

yet the Dictator’s Daughter still promises economic democratization

and the Duck from Damascus declares that he rules by the will of the people

but citizens won’t be duped by lies  or cowed by tear gas and stun grenades

their bloodshed by free trade and autocracy is testimony enough

being battered but Unbroken is sustenance

a daughter bound for Seoul City Hall in 1919  in 1960  in 1980  in 1987

her mother wondering if she’s eaten before she takes to the streets

the minjung movement of conscience with action

transformation in the factories and in the shanty towns

underground theoretics giving purpose  deriving meaning

men chewing melon and sipping raki at round-table discussions in Ankara

hungry souls who mention that police will shoot people down like stray dogs

dehumanized and lionized in the same breath

they say the pain is worth the dignity any day

being battered but Unbroken is hope

Hyundai workers atop 50-meter pylons  han at life’s core

struggling and yet envisioning a just horizon beyond dispatch employment

Greek public servants on a 24-hour strike  debt servitude to the troika

halting flights to offices in D. C.  in Frankfurt   in Luxembourg

societies sold to the highest bidder

societies torn down and awaiting rebirth

but the people  battered but Unbroken

they have spoken