Public Bath in Seoul

The money meant nothing to me
I didn’t know how much it was worth
Fingers fumbled through my leather wallet, when she
Asked me to pay, I showed her different bills
She smiled as her slender fingers pulled out
What seemed to be, much too much
            She never gave me any change

A waft of steam, hot humid air
Blast of heat, like a mid-summer day—
When opening the car window only blows
More hot air into your face
A momentary lapse of consciousness
            Try not to look
An entrance made through sliding doors
As if to greet me, wandering eyes glance my way
Embarrassment was only a step I had to take
And yet, that meant nothing here as well
            Away from the world
The cluttered bustle of the streets
City lights, glow of phosphorescent signs
They would never know, what went on down here
The nozzle spurts out a torrent of steamy water
Soap suds float across tile floors like a body adrift
In a river, warm rain, cleanse me of my sins

My legs lift from the floor, as the sound
Of voices echo between the walls, fragments of
Conversations overheard, in a language I did not know
One forms meaning, recognizing sound
Familiar, tones, transformed into one of the other
Languages you knew, I lower myself into
            The shallow depths
Sinews steeped in hot water mist
Nurtured by the flow of warmth, the mind
Lets go of hardship, slow of time
Sink further as the neck submerges
Breath becomes almost indiscernible, thought
Meant something once, meant something
Somewhere long ago


"Doorway" © Stacy Esch

“Doorway” © Stacy Esch


Lover of things Eastern, Seth Howard wavers between reminiscing about his time spent in Asia, and writing disruptive language poetry that draws from the wells of the imagination. His first chapbook, Out of The East, centered on his experiences abroad in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea. His latest chapbook, The Low Ceiling, focuses on disruptive language experimentation. He has a degree in English from UConn, and studied Japanese Language and Studies, as well as Philosophy at Sophia University (Tokyo).

Stacy Esch lives and works in West Chester, Pennsylvania, teaching English at West Chester University. Digital art and photography are the twin passions that compete alongside her interest in writing, reading, songwriting, and gardening. She has previously published work at Turkshead Review and wordriver literary review. She is currently selling a calendar through Spruce Alley Press.