What a blessing,
to have passed through hunger.
I will teach my daughters
to bare their palms.
………….I will teach them how to beg.
As the chrysanthemum greens wilt under chili and oil,
my young mother slips a blade through a slab of flank,
pulls silverskin from flesh in one leaf of tissue and flex.
At sixteen, she’s still new to this nation that un-names her daily.
An Oriental name will drag her, they say, so she gives up Sunju for Kathy,
though the tongue-tip press of -th- refuses her.
She’ll say Katt-ie for years, and sets even her teachers snickering,
the dignity of a name only the first of things taken. It’s barely dawn,
the pin-prick sun not yet heaved over the horizon,
but she prepares a week’s worth of lunch boxes and dinners:
salt-beef simmered in a stock of anchovy and soy, whole kkwarigochu
sing their green roulette as they braise, some mild, some blistering.
How to love in a country that teaches surrender:
tables heavy with home. Braised hen knotted in bitter greens. Candied root
of lotus. Birth-names muttered over dinner so as to not forget.
be proud of what they try