Body, Let Go

by Melissa Houghton

1.

She, my mother grabbed my hand with hers, sat next to me,

hoarding me away from him, my father.  I saw but didn’t see.

While waiting, I’d counted the patches of quilt on the wall.

A splotchy kid handprint here, a smiling stick figure there.

The wall spoke of reunification. I tried to hide my feelings in my

story: There, at the agency, I’d meet them, strangers with my DNA.

Then what would I say and how would I say it?  My translator,

Miss Park, a gentle young lady, could and couldn’t help me.

2.

I think of the ones sitting

on the bench, telling us we’ve scored,

so we know to scream out

the name of our team.

My belly sinks,

not like my mother’s

after she squeezed

me out into a poem from

inside this melon-colored building,

not like it did when

the announcer called

my name before the

hometown football game,

and I leapt out,

my legs scissored, struck

a pose in air, and

hit the resilient track.

My first split second fight

with gravity.

I’ve anchored myself

to this scene:

Back where no one

ever calls me

Kim Mi Ra rather

Muh-Lih-Suh:

this split self

fits me like

the red skirt

with black panels

I loathed to wear.

It rings low

in my ear now.

It requires

a cheer.

The cheer, ringing

silently is

amplified by

this empty hospital room

where my mother would

have screamed,

pushing out

the life inside,

then waiting

for them to cut

the cord.

3.

The KTX,

reaching speeds

of 200-plus

kilometers

per hour,

carried me

from Seoul

to my mother’s.

So I said green

mountains fled past.

So I splashed my hands

in the sacred water.

So I looked in the window

and saw my mother.

So what? Who cares?

On the train,

a gauzy rose-colored

skirt made my waist itch,

I sucked in rather

than sighed.

Then I missed my stop,

called my mother, though

she couldn’t understand.

So what? Who cares?

A man beside me

bought me sugar donuts

from the cart, held my hand,

helped me get to my mother

in Gumi.

It wasn’t until later,

when I relayed this story

to my father, I realized

he was some kind of pervert

who was pleased I’d moved the dough

around with my tongue, letting

the sugar dissolve, and washed

it down with orange juice.

4.

Seoul tower

revolved for the sake

of revolving.

My omah and appah

pointed to the dark

city’s lights below.

They blinked

and twinkled.

Inside the tower,

we spoke over

our evening meal,

country fried

steak with cabbage.

The silverware

surprised me.

The gleam

of metal chopsticks

even more,

so slippery,

I couldn’t hold

on to anything

with them.

I let my tears

slide out. It’s

what they wanted;

driving to the

tower, my father

gave me 100,000

won and said

he was sorry.

My mother,

winding the

SUV around,

kept getting lost.

I couldn’t help

them find their

way, but I could

sing Karaoke, eat

peanuts and drink

Hite, let my mother

feed me bulgogi,

buy me new clothes,

dab makeup on me,

and give me more

money still—

perhaps my love

for them was

incremental.

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Filed under Issue 5: The Far East, Poetry

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