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from the November 2005 issue

A Meal in This World

Although Mother survived a crisis and is home from the hospital
she's not the same-her mind is hazy.
How can I express my sorrow
when she insists our guests in black suits
are detectives from the KCIA or another branch of intelligence come to arrest my brother,
or when she strikes matches in the living room to start a fire in the kitchen?
Now she even forgets to call to God,
the very God
before whom she knelt at dawn and prayed on the cold floor of the church
when I was imprisoned and suffered a little
and my brother was chased day and night by the police.
To end this blackout of her soul
I was ready to convert again
calling to the head of the shrine I escaped from,
so I took her to the Hallelujah prayer house,
where she broke my heart with her blank expression.
A few days ago, when she collected her mind,
she gave my wife her cross-shaped golden necklace
saying, "All this is utterly useless."
Whether she was bequeathing gold or a cross,
I felt she was cleaning out her life
and got angry at her for no reason.
I shuddered at her disposing even of her cross.
Mother, how can you cross the river alone without this?
After visiting Jeonju Jesus Hospital, we prepared her favorite meal
of fish but she did not eat much.
A meal with an old sick mother is like a meal prepared for a memorial service.
I took a boneless morsel and placed it on her rice
but she only said, "Help yourself while you have an appetite."
Something besides a fish bone was stuck in my throat
and I snuck into the living room.
The Verona World Cup ball was bouncing wildly on the TV screen.

For the next poem in this sequence, click here.

Read more from the November 2005 issue
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