My favourite Korean folk tale
is designed to teach children proper hygiene
although it plays out like a nightmare:
If you cut your toenails & forget to clean up the clippings
rats will eat it, become an exact replica of yourself
& turn up at your door.
Your identities will be indecipherable to your father
& your position in the household is diminished
by at least half.
My second favourite folk tale concerns a pickled, yellow king
who sends his Turtle Doctor to find a new liver.
The first animal outside the kingdom he finds
is a rabbit.
When they improvidently show their hand
Rabbit insists it’s too valuable to travel with.
He is released in good faith
& according to the story, he ends all benders.
When the doctor demands his dues
the rabbit stifles a laugh: “Why would I give you that?
You know I can’t live without it,”
& bounds off.
(Editor’s note: poet Peter Gibbon has lived in South Korea and published with In/Words Magazine, Apt. 9 Press, Bywords and Toronto’s The Puritan)