there are walnut trees toppling sidewalks, pointing ways past
the bell-ringing church & the drain pipes & the scores of rats.
i pass them every day & every day since that september i am haunted by you.
when i was walking earlier today i imagined my
half-sister as an incandescently pale, oval sort of moon,
but knew, deep down, how i am yellow, mother, & damaged, just like you.
sister said that we are searching, always, & only for you,
but i’ve loved only one type of man & every woman because
i am reaching out to find myself, not you.
on second thought, don’t
say a word, eomma. your words, like so
many pearls, aren’t nearly enough.
tomorrow i’ll step through the walnut-rot—inky spots
marking where they fell & then dropped. but
what if i never find the right words to write you, eomma?
i am careening, somewhere between sidestepping & flight, thinking, surely,
“someday, but not today, i’ll put you to rest.”
they called me a gook all my life because of you.
i didn’t think about what that meant at the time, but now i think about it every single day.
was i cultured, eomma, or purposefully made? & how
could you have made me any differently?
homeland, to me, is walking carefully under these
deep, stained walnut trees, edging closely, tensely, safely,
far further into this double-edged life, wondering when?
as i walk, i am waiting for the walnuts to drop &
knock me one way or the other, as i am balancing between worlds,
but they don’t. & the longer i walk the more i realize
they never will.
three years have passed like slanted sidewalks & i
thought i’d know where to begin, how to
write you by now but i still can’t say your name
in my head, eomma, because it keeps coming up as mine.
By hyun-joo kim
hyun-joo (“virutous pearl”) kim was born to an unmarried korean mother and american father during the height of the korean international adoption trade in the early 1990s. she grew up in NJ with white brothers and sisters, eventually finding her biological half-sister, nicole, and biological father in 2017 and 2019, respectively. she holds a bachelor’s degree in literature and a master’s degree in history but is currently working on a ph.d. in african history. she has published poems in journals such as forbes&fifth magazine, 70 faces magazine, and collision literary magazine. email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow her on instagram (@thekatieladybird).