My Grandfather Visits Pyongyang

Poetry / Theophilus Kwek

Too late, we find among his photographs
A kingdom mostly dreamed of,

Its absurd architecture where
He alighted some time in October.

Frame after frame resists comparison.
There isn’t a place we’ve seen

That stands as still, or with the same intent
Raises its glass towards heaven,

All normalcy locked within a sound
These pictures don’t contain—a pitch rung

In the earth’s confines, too low
For human hearing. Friends tell us to allow

Ourselves the time it takes
To grieve, or whatever brings us back

To last year’s long continuum,
But something stays the eye. How in some

Perspectives he’s already gone,
Gone from the boulevards where wide-crowned

Trees fill up the viewfinder,
And men and women in work clothes hover

Outside our field of vision. He’s
Somewhere else entirely, now close,

Now looking in, the disappearance
Nothing more than a trick of the lens,

Though we fall for it again and again.
How like him, we think,

Then catch ourselves. The pages turn
On their own impulse in our hands.

Theophilus Kwek was President of the Oxford University Poetry Society, and currently serves as Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry and Chief Executive Assistant at Asymptote. He won the Jane Martin Prize in 2015 and the New Poets’ Prize in 2017, and was recently placed Second in the Stephen Spender Prize 2016 for poetry in translation. He has published three collections of poetry, and a pamphlet of new poems, The First Five Storms, will be published by The Poetry Business in January 2017.