I gotta get back on top of posting on Thursdays. I apologize.
In the meantime, here's the poem I did at the APIA Spoken Word Summit, and at the Woosh K August Slam. I feel like I've been working on this poem for a year, in different drafts, but it was never clear to me what I wanted to say, so it was never clear to anyone what it said. I think I've finally got it, or come close, for this poem at least. Love to my adoptees, and love to my birthmother.
I wish my birth mother
If she had Facebook,
my newsfeed would repeat her name
and I could know how many carrots she cut for dinner.
How the sun kisses her and skins her and calls it summer.
Whether work is slow,
or alive and steaming,
when it’s not just a dark square on the street and we are in a taxi pointing,
when she is counting the till at night
and mixing sugar into the kimchi.
She could poke me. I could poke her back.
If my birth mother had Facebook
I could know her favorite quotations.
Is she a live life to the fullest, don’t look back kind of lady?
Is she stuck in song lyrics?
Let me come home
Home is wherever I’m with you.
Or is she obsessed with love like it’s a blessing worth repeating?
Maybe she left it blank, like I do, because there are too many words that lift us in this world and it’s hard to nail them down.
I would stalk her mobile uploads:
samgyetang on the first dog day of summer,
her son, stooped by a street vendor, buying onions and tea.
Cabbage and radishes stretching into her corner garden,
a couple, squished together on the subway,
her new shoes.
An entire album of little moments,
the ones she has to save.
And the glow of my screen would catch my smile
as I got to know her.
Would we both
have a photo of the fog
soaking up the sun,
like the bright haze could lift our own shadows.
Is there only one sky,
showing up on both our profiles
over and over across the ocean?
If we were Facebook friends
she wouldn’t have to call me at 4am to tell me that she’s sorry.
We wouldn’t have to blubber in broken Korean about how wholesome we’re eating.
She wouldn’t have to let her tears out, I wouldn’t have to receive them,
she could just post on my wall that she loves me, and I could “like” it.
We could invite each other to events we can’t attend and Facebook could send us birthday reminders
would my mother curse the screen every august 13th like an annual birth pain?
would Facebook remind her to breathe?
If there was Facebook on the night I was born, my mother could have asked for more courage.
Her friends commenting that they hoped everything was okay,
sending light and love
and my naked mother holding me on her blood stained floor,
skin to skin,
my fist clenched around her finger,
us, weeping together
and still a secret.
Someone, somewhere, would say a prayer for her.
Maybe she would have 811 friends.
Maybe she would have ten.
Maybe she would have closed her account,
closed her doors,
closed her heart, her laughter, her words.
Maybe there isn’t really anything to say
when you’re dressing your baby for the last time.
But I want to know.
I want to be a mobile upload, too precious to forget.
I want to hear her quaint descriptions:
how long is the train ride to the city?
what is the woman next to her reading?
does she get lost in seoul?
I want to follow her check-ins:
to the payphone,
to the social worker’s apartment.
to the alley outside, where she threw up a piece of her.
I want more than an apology.
I want to know what I was wearing.
I want to know what I was doing, what my mother’s eyes looked like as she said goodbye.
What song was playing on the radio?
How many other mothers were in that black book,
sat on that sinking couch,
handed their children away
in return for their hope?
for how long did she sleep that night?
Has she woken up
time-drenched broken mother,
let’s not wait another 21 years for a birthday party.
for you to teach me what it means to prepare your skin at night,
to scrub our bodies before bed,
to measure a red hanbok around my waist,
and feed me a lifetime of meals in one sitting.
this is a friend request
from a stranger,
this is a friend request
from your daughter.