Day Late Chuseok Greeting

She tells me it is a feast day because it is a day to honor the ancestors.
She says ancestors in English and I can’t name the emotion I feel;
if shame has an ambivalence, it is secretive like the hummingbird in flight.
I am older, and I don’t have a baby like she did.
I will never forget the few mothers I met in graduate school.
They were so tired, and I saw her face in their gaze,
which was far from defeat, closer to knowing
this is not everything, a book and a smart mouth
is not everything.

The fall has come, and I imagine it smells like
the crinkly white hair of a long lost relative.
So, nothing, or the faint acidic tang of skin.
The dead weave in and out of the air.
And I am asked once more what I will do;
if I will have the courage not to turn away, not
to become exactly as efficient and beautiful
as the rooms I traverse demand.

I do not know how to tend to my dead.
And they are indeed my dead, as I have claimed them,
their colorful vests and their soft hands smelling of
hard candies and herbs. If war and forgetfulness
kept me from knowing them, at least I know
I can talk into the space of loneliness,
and something will come out, even if it is
the echo of my own tenderness.

I start therapy and I buy crystals for friends.
I think there is a possibility I could get good, I could get better.
Time, in all her poetic wrath, challenges me, asks me not to turn away.
I won’t turn away. For now, the phone is where I practice.
When the other’s voice comes quiet, parched, I try to bring the honey.
Lie that I’m okay, that I’m truly motivated, happy, and maybe
something else will linger.

Another name for the harvest moon is depression, recovery, guilt.
She sends me a white notebook with a dried rose on the cover.
What would I write in it? What would I write in it but
the sum of all I have been given?
My debts haunt me, as does my tendency to punish myself.
An image shatters and behind its mess the leaves begin to turn.

Image: Photo by taidundua, via freepik.