midnight in wonderland

we felt so grown up 
when we were kids
and now wonder that 
we are so old when 
we're not yet grown

we started losing 
our parents to 
time and frailty.

in the cycle of life 
things go upside 
down sometimes

you rush
d o w n
the
  rabbit hole
      into a world
above the logic of sorrow

and find you are so
small, but remember:
Mom's high ceiling, 
your sure ground.

see the sky and trees
in your pool of tears
they're the other side 
of life. how beautiful 
things are when they drown

how clear it is underwater.

you long to run 
to the garden 
beyond that door 
but you don't fit

life would feel deformed 
under the weight of loss 
if it weren't for the faith 
that was bigger than the 
life that shut down

she archived her fears and 
hopes in her kids, did
anyone hear the story 
in between, did
anyone  look?

hold fast 
your heirloom assurance

the midnight of your dreams
is really a new day.

for HJ &
anyone else
who would like it

Words Between Mom and Boy, Part 3

ChurchMay

Seven-and-a-half ~

Yes, we all have our job. Yours is to study, mine is to cook and teach you, Daddy’s is to make money.
Huh. I have the hardest job of all.

—————

Umma, what is the bottom number? The lowest number….the floor?
*Smile* It’ll be a negative number, right? Way below zero. Only God can reach it because He is infinite.
When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask Him to show me how He stretches from the lowest to the highest number.

—————–

*Watching him eat, in amazement*
Where does it all go? It’s a three-mile tunnel in there.
I’m mileless.

—————–

Mom, what is M x X?

—————–

Mom, you know what the bottommost lowest number is?
What?
Negative infinity.

—————-

His prayer in Sunday School
Lord, give us joy as we fall at your feet.
*Mom stunned*

t_portrait02

The Woman You Praised

Cleopatra in Wiki

Cleopatra in Wiki

The one thing she wasn’t known for was a beautiful face but people – men in particular – were arrested by her presence, charisma, eloquence, and intellect. Cleopatra was captivating with a beauty only she could claim.

What is the greatest compliment you have received as a woman or paid one?

Though I have never known myself to be particularly attractive, in years past I’ve admittedly found the attention of men flattering. I don’t see that it wouldn’t be. It’s a confession that doesn’t sound politically correct against the backdrop of the many popular posts defending inner beauty and self-acceptance. I was startled by the realization this week that you also have all made me feel very beautiful. While male bloggers may enjoy affection or encouragement from their readers, they are not going to say we made them feel so lovely. Julius Caesar attracted people with the same qualities Cleopatra boasted but he wasn’t thought to be bewitching. What I’m getting at is that while the attributes that draw our admiration for both sexes will often reflect things deeper than skin, we praise men and women differently. We’ll choose language that polarizes gender. Certainly the very point of feminist contention, but I’d like you to think about – without worry over judgment – the most flattering or ennobling praise you’ve received not only as a person but as a woman. Or given to a woman, whether it’s something that affirms, emboldens, or redefines her femininity. We had fun with the posts where I swore I was a man. My husband would love it if I were softer. If I had to choose, I would rather have respect than love. Give me brains over beauty any day – a vote for myself and the female race. And more than traits, virtues like wisdom and integrity obviously merit recognition and make us really lovely. But even I can’t help but feel more womanly, and therefore more in touch with myself as a person, when I feel not only appreciated or liked but beautiful inside and out.

Men and Women: Another Difference, Part 2

Back in high school, a good friend said after meeting my family, “Your mother is so beautiful. What happened to you?!” I laughed. Good question. Part of Mom’s looks have been their enviable resilience to time, which she never took for granted. Korean women are vigilant against the insistence of gravity on their face, and here I am without the aid of benevolent genes. All the more I really should groom. Mom saw the family photos I sent and called me with an opening commentary on my husband. “He looks so good. He looks better every year. But…you! Take care of yourself!” she urged. She meant the face.

I came across a group shot of friends from five years back and was shocked to see how young we were. One guy is not yet 40 and has since gone gray. But he doesn’t look bad. Somehow his wife doesn’t wear the wrinkles so well. My mother still had to maintain her attractiveness with the diligent day-and-night regimen in a way Dad was free not to have to worry about. My husband is aging like wine. Me? I’m the milk on the counter.

You men. Just how do you turn the card with the salt and pepper hair and crow’s feet? Dignified. They say you look dignified. Ugh. Not only are you spared the angst over a biological clock that measures the worth of your manhood but you have a longer visual expiration date. To add insult to injury, all you have to do is shave and get a buzz and you regain three young, handsome years. As a statistic, you die before we do. Your eye candy loses its sweetness and you’re gone. You leave us to our chores just when we could really use your muscle.

Several readers have asked to get together off the blog. I’ve taken a rain check for circumstances that keep me busy and close to home but I’m tempted to reconsider. God knows what I’ll look like in a year.

Here’s Part 1.

st r u gg ling artist ii

                    my boy
          i am the shade of his sun
afraid he will burn, but

i am more than the smell of the bosom
          he has learned, to grow up and leave and cleave
                   to the woman of his heart 

                                     i am the album of regrets and
                              and deficiency and forgiving

the roots that climb deep down parents' omissions

i am the redemption of the years my mother
        pushed through the choices she didn't have, on grit and coffee

                       did you know? korean grandmothers don't
                 have a name but Grandma in korean
           and tradition erased their childhood
    -- no one heard -- their cheerful silence was
their greatest gift to us

i am the epode on the piano
        G major 7 in improv and 
                                  syncopation
while i keep time for my family, i am the   sus pension
                                  that knows to resolve

                                      the heave of jazz
                      i can S C A T

                           i am the cherry blossoms that concede
                     their soul in season, unabashed
         and the ones that could not    hold    on
                          their delicate dance down in death
                                  dust to dust    

                           i don't need self-esteem
                           i know Whose i am
                   but God doesn't have twins and
                   He doesn't make machines
         we are each His masterpiece

         no -- no, i don't want to roar
         that i am Woman

                           i just wish silence --
                  license -- to put to paper my person

              who cares what i am
       but the earnest page
and the memories and dreams that ask not to die

i am the apology that i know what i want
                    and have begun to sing before the cicada's time

                           i am the choices i live with
            am almost the books i wait
                                        wait
                                                 to write.

CherryBlossoms
The Commons Getty Collection Galleries World Map App

A fascinating report on cicadas ran in a number of media outlets 
last year. A certain species remains underground for 17 years, 
surviving on roots, to buzz an intense noise for six weeks upon 
surfacing - only to perish. After months of trying to figure out 
what about these creatures enthralled me so, it hit me in the
writing. Seventeen is about the age kids leave home for college.
 

It’s Always My Fault

Every time I drive by the church where it happened, I still look away. I drown the memory in a parade of new thoughts and have managed to take Hidden Valley with the casualness I run through any other road. That evening six years ago, I was leaving the church with my toddler in my arms and didn’t realize I was about to step off a curb as we neared the parking lot. I thought I was on level ground. When the pavement gave way under my foot, we didn’t just fall. We crashed straight like a tree, Tennyson’s forehead bearing the full weight of my body in the sickening clap with concrete. I can hear him scream.

I am finding this the hardest thing I have written on this blog. The tears aside, my heart pounds with fresh pain and I am clammy with sweat, replaying the tape. My boy was okay (by medical standards, though I knew cells and neurons had their work cut out for them). And as I walked through a doorway the next day wearing him on my back, I didn’t know he was sticking his head out to the side. BAM went his head against the wall along the threshold. Yes, on the same spot.

I was beside myself when I called my husband. Rather than blame me for my incompetence and idiocy, the amazing man expressed compassion. He had only to imagine what I was going through to feel terrible for me. I will never forgive myself the injuries my son suffered that week. And I will shut off the comments if you try to encourage me out of it. Finger on the trigger.

I peer at myself as I would a lab specimen. I am not one of those people who goes around saying sorry. I don’t wring my hands, gush to please and – as much as I pity them – don’t cry for cats that are run over. I am also well versed in the theology of forgiveness and grace, my surety and the cornerstone of my faith. But when I dissect the narratives in my head, I discover so many threads of quiet self-condemnation it’s as though I’m built out of it. The bruises of masochistic abuse remain well hidden. They are more like innocent white noise of the subtext that plays out in my day.

Even now it takes effort to switch off the autopilot on the self-blame when Tennyson comes down with a cold. Why didn’t I dress him more warmly yesterday? I shouldn’t have given him dairy. My mind reels back through the previous few days to puzzle where I’d gone wrong, what I ought to have done to keep him well. I live with the sense of failure for not keeping my home tidier. Tennyson’s math workbook disappeared recently. But I just organized! I marveled. For days I scoured the car, the learning room, the laundry room, family room, office, and then looped back wondering how I could be so inept at the housekeeping so as to lose lesson books. I asked the little man again if he’d seen it. Then when I presented him with the next book in the series I’d resigned to fast-forwarding him to, my sweet child exclaimed, “Oh, I know where it is!” slipping the magic find out of a crevice behind a poster.

Disbelief. He had hidden it so he wouldn’t have to do his math. My son, who’s made no habit of lying.

I swallow guilt every morning I start him with the book while (and so that) I can get back to readers. I should sit with him more. My conscience reminds me that I have yet to teach him piano and the Korean alphabet. What will I do with myself when I come through? Ah, fortunately for me the Holistic Fault Factory runs a tireless operation. Can’t disappoint Korean management. I’ve spoken of the ongoing struggle it is for me as an artist, caught between my writing and the life outside it. A friend shared a bit of wisdom she picked up in regard to time that I have to digest: receive the gift of your limitations.

Well, wouldn’t you know it? Even when freed up to blog, I’ve felt bad for shooting out more than one post in a day, though a new rhythm is something I’ve had to deal with in the fall school year; I’ve hated to bother you. I refrained from writing about myself in any depth for a full year, not wanting to waste your time with stories of my past. I will sometimes disable the likes, feeling bad for getting “too many”. Simply unable to keep up, I’ve grudgingly learned to fall behind on all the blogs to visit back. I’m tapping into followers and visitors from January – not that anyone’s waiting. So trying to make heads and tails out of this strange creature in the mirror, I’ve a suspicion guilt is something we experience in and between relationships. I feel its weight as wife and mother, and even as blogger.

I grapple with it in connection with my body, eating guilt when I don’t do enough vegetables. As a teenager, I didn’t salt my food. I felt guilty for the flavor. Then there’s the chagrin when I ease up on the work-outs in order to write. And the resentment, those other days, in not being able to open the windows of my mind, let my words out, is actually the sorrow of being untrue to myself. I’m crazy. Annoyed every time my mother cries about all the ways she (says that she) wronged me in my younger years, I think people derive a certain pleasure in the self-incrimination. It is possible – God makes it possible – for us to live free from our failings and remorse. Why are we afraid to let these go? Why do we resist grace?