Dated January 23, 2016, on flight KE037 …
I am fragments.
The First maternal fragment,
Is my flesh and blood —
A round ass, dark hair —
I imagine her now as an “Ajumma”
Peeling chestnuts for sale in the streets
Of Cheongnyangni in Seoul.
The Second recorded my firsts.
Steps, words and that crucial first birthday.
She was a photography professor’s wife.
I was attached to her, they said.
But that is all I’m allowed to know.
The Third called me hers.
She was love wrapped
In the sweet smell of perfume.
She believed I would grow
To bear a red-headed child —
With the auburn curls of her youth.
She took insults like
“Big Fat Hippopotamus”
As she rescued me
From my third grade racist tormentors.
She would lay a dark chocolate almond bar
On my pillow in anticipation
Of her college girl’s return.
When it came my time to be mother,
I realized my flaws.
I felt my first’s tiny hand trace mine
Through my hot, stretched belly bump.
I shut my eyes,
Imagining my small hand doing the same
In Post Korean War Seoul.
And here I realized the significance of my First
Pushed to the recesses of my mind —
Just as the Third watched this new
“Oriental” baby reach a stage she knew …
She was gone.
I was left to ponder.
Wonder again what it was like to be mother,
Without the guidance of another.
In my son’s development,
I noticed the crucial stages left to my imagination.
Solids at six months —
A time when my breastmilk could no longer
Keep up with a growing child’s insatiable appetite.
I have an insatiable appetite.
Did I need too much?
I was left at six months …
A police station?
Yes, of course. Like all the others.
Let the records show —
But not too much.
They are hidden, trashed,
lost in the shame of a country that sent me away.
That shame is mine.
I rejected Korea for so long.
My son’s questions prompting more.
Our five-month stay was a gift.
A hope to show them their country.
But I realize it is no longer mine,
And they cannot claim it.
We are 미국 … American.
What mother takes her children
To a place she says they belong,
While she uses silence to blend in?
In crowds, they panic when they cannot find her.
She is not yellow in a sea of white like home.
What wrong is she trying to right?
What mother fragments her children?