Resilience

My mother grew up during the war.  She was 13 when Chinese communists and Korean dis-loyalists colluded a hostile takeover of her homeland.

Korean War People

After war (AP archives)

After having to leave the north where she was born, she never saw her home again.  She never really talked about it, but I don’t think she knew what happened to her parents.  And many of her siblings perished and were lost from her.

mom & me

I remember mama

I didn’t grow up in war directly, but I was privy to the damage that it caused my mother as the pain and anger weeped out of her.

As a Korean child of Korean immigrants, I have conflicted feelings  towards the Chinese and Japanese (along with the despot Kims of the North).  And I have trust issues with white Americans, too.  These conniving powers hell bent on destroying a small nation that just wanted to be left alone.

But what a phoenix Korea turned out to be:  from the ashes born a creature of resilience and determination.   Yes, we are.

War, illness and famine will make you their favorite grandchild.

You’ll be like a blind person watching a silent movie.

You’ll chop onions and pieces of your heart

into the same hot skillet.

Your children will sleep in a suitcase tied with a rope.

Your husband will kiss your breasts every night

as if they were two gravestones.

––excperted from “What the Gypsies Told My Grandmother While She Was Still a Young Girl” by Charles Simic

 

 

 

 

 

Old Ladies

My Old Ladies have become my inheritance.

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On Classon Avenue

As a youngster I didn’t think about how I was on the road to old ladyhood the minute I came out of my mother’s uterus.

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Still on Classon

The “good night” that Dylan Thomas was writing about is some serious shit.  I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I am afraid of dying.  I know I am dying.

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Three Hats on the go

What the fuck.

Another summer gone, the hills burned to burdock and
thistle, I hold you a moment in the cup of my voice,
you flutter in the frail cave of the finch, you lean to speak
in my ear and the first rains blow you away.
–Philip Levine

 

The Animal of Truth

Louise Glück wrote that the “woman’s body is a grave.”

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The Animal of Truth

You’ll get no arguments from me.

I’ve been watching my aunt sink ever more into it.

 

 

In this light

I can see the animal of truth

become you

unleashing equal parts delirium

and deliverance.

What can Time take

that you have not already

let go?  Sight, sound, taste

returned to the next in line.

How expert you have become

in looking into the space

behind your eyes.

— “Animal of Truth” by Jiwon Choi

I Dream In Flowers

For some seasons now, I’ve been saving zinnia seeds to sow the next year.  I can’t believe how a tiny seed can hold this wealth of beauty and grace.

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Always looking ahead

Though I am a just one gardener growing on a very small scale, I claim my right to collect and save seeds so that I can play a part in crop biodiversity, and to keep the seed free.   I don’t mean “free” in terms of I’m giving them away, but free from corporate control, free from copyrighting and patenting like how Monsanto does.

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Mother of zinnias

And the question of seed sovereignty and control is one that we urban gardeners can answer.  The practice of seed collecting has been around ever since humans could identify what a seed was, and for the agribusiness goliaths to make it a crime for small farmers to keep their own seed is criminal.

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Fuschia forever

The life force of the seed is the life force of the people, and when big companies take that away from us, they are essentially killing us.

In 1995, Indian Agriculture was reoriented from being focused on National Food Security, which rests on the livelihood and ecological security of our small farmers, to being focussed on corporate control and corporate profits, which are made possible by the corporate written rules of “free” trade, trade liberalization, and globalization. Enabled by these rules, agrichemical giants entered India and started to control the seed sector. Where once farmers grew, saved, and replanted seeds, they were now forced to buy seed-chemical packages that allowed companies to extract super-profits from farmers through royalty collection.

–Dr. Vandana Shiva,  April, 24, 1995

And since 1995, almost 300,000 farmers in India have committed suicide.

Live seed or die.

 

 

 

Are We Not Dead Yet?

My aunt was taken to the ER last Wednesday and then admitted into the hospital because her blood pressure was dangerously low.

The first three days were in what they call “medical step down”: less critical than ICU but too critical for the regular hospital floor. On day four she was downgraded to the regular unit, but in a control isolation room. This means you need to put on a gown before entering and wash your hands without fail.

She contracted an infection while in the nursing home and was on antibiotics for two weeks, but the bacteria was still in her system. The nursing home didn’t test her stool and so didn’t know she was still sick. Apparently you can die from such infections if you’re an old lady.

I think I know how this movie ends. But I don’t want to rush the scenes. And if I’m allowed some rewrites of the plot along the way, permit me to make sure my Old Lady doesn’t croak in the hospital. Perhaps she could be in a field of bright yellow flowers when it’s her time.

In this light

I can see the animal of truth

become you

unleashing equal parts delirium

and deliverance.

What can Time take

that you have not already

let go?

–excerpted from “Animal of Truth” by Jiwon Choi