When the doctor suggested surgery
and a brace for all my youngest years,
my parents scrambled to take me
to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,
and move more in a body unclouded
by pain. My mom would tell me to sing
songs to her the whole forty-five minute
drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-
five minutes back from physical therapy.
She’d say, even my voice sounded unfettered
by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang,
because I thought she liked it. I never
asked her what she gave up to drive me,
or how her day was before this chore. Today,
at her age, I was driving myself home from yet
another spine appointment, singing along
to some maudlin but solid song on the radio,
and I saw a mom take her raincoat off
and give it to her young daughter when
a storm took over the afternoon. My god,
I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her
raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel
that I never got wet.
From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.
The life of a garment worker in midtown Manhattan.
She worked as seamstress in the sweatshops of New York City.
Whose mother is not the love of their life?
She pushed her lunch on co-workers
from Russia, Togo, Haiti, Dominican Republic.
They disliked the sugar fried anchovies.
They saw the nimbus on each fish
and politely or raucously declined. The cavernous
spaces of her mind. Having studied graphic design
at Duksung Women’s College, Dobong-gu, Seoul,
what else was she going to do but write a novel.
Staring at sea windows, she scrawled and chalked
in her head. Drong of eternal absence. An expert
on the social history of the Staten Island Ferry,
she confided in me the act of crying was a privilege.
What type of person leaves a near full can of
coconut water on the bleachers? You have to be
happy in order to weep, or sob. I can teach you,
she said to me. If you can hold a pencil, I can teach you
how to draw. But I’ve known people who have
no hands. Who have no fingers.
Copyright © 2022 by Haesong Kwon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.