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Sunday, July 17, 2005

First Generation Amerasian: The Blood Stories

Yume Chung Martines, author of the following essay and poems, has several times published poetry in Under Construction magazine. While devoting a great deal of time to writing and reading poetry, she is also a fulltime mother of four children, a wife and part-time student at NHCC.

For me, poetry is a way of making a bond between the various parts of being first generation Amerasian that aren't so visible. For instance: Who is my Grandmother? I have talked with her on the phone. I have seen her in my Dreams. My daughter's face is shaped like hers. But I have never met her. My mother still speaks Korean fluently, and taught me how to cook more Korean dishes than American, yet when I walk into a Korean grocery store, I get stared at and gossiped about. "Oh, you like Kim-chee? Oh, you buy for your mom? Oh, you know how cook this? I tell you secret . . . " Personally, I like the way my mother cooks her secrets and the way I cook mine a lot better, but don't tell anyone that. Writing helps me make sense of The Korean side of me, the American side, and of all the glimpses of them I see around, inside and out.

I think it is important to remember the blood stories that are passed down and to be able to appreciate the conflicts, strengths and emotions (not to mention lives) that got them here. For me, writing them out keeps me alive for the simple sake of living. On the other hand, it also keeps those silent ancestors from reaching up out of their graves or next lives to strangle me for forgetting!

I and Her

She is eleven again, in the slicing
of the vein. The wrist caught
on petroleum and the blackness
of her hair catches twelve
packed glances, white
cream in the barley tea.

Prickled sobs then. Cactus
flesh and a few needles
clawing at the Adam's apple,
the left forearm, no,
her chest, her breast.

Until she looks around, the fight,
the argument simply at it's end.
the vocal cords, without waters
scraping the passenger chairs
daffodils and dandelions.

She rebuttons the green blouse
where her belly button
settles beneath white ribs.

She is still the energy
of this bloody line.
Can't fish anywhere.
No river waking the rocks.
Her shins two thin sticks,
wood poles and hooks

out suddenly screaming
for sky, the teeth, my cheeks
my joints out. empty. Turning
turning in the last voices.
Appendage of the child
dropping from the womb.


The village
alphabet began,
a circle of men,
farmland and huts,
“for the fetch of girls
and scratching poor".

Then, 1970:
'A woman,
(she wrote)
has poetry'
and a must-keep
daughter born
to break her

In America
an adoptee
claimed from
the frame,
the characters
curving a circle
into stories
and passed
down narrative
a book
of the familiar
brown, pronounceable-
the tongue
of Pak.

Mother has sewn her name.

But silt still spills
over the black earth,
a broken language
for me to plant.

After Rainbows

A pair of Korean dolls
sit on the metal shelf above
the hairs on my head.
First red, then brown turning
blonde in the sunlight.

changing them over into a braid
silk, cotton, polyestor.
when my mouth hears
nothing comes out
but ghosts with no voices

even when I'm loud, screaming!
yelling at the air
their song is silent
lungs/broken pencil chopsticks

until the eyes
pierce. ears sting.
again and again
to the grave
of their plastic pieces
I write down a song?
an old saying.
a blackened hair on the wall stuck there with its own oil
treasures that forget to stay in their boxes
through my hands making braids

rings I wear that twinkle brighter in the light
than the names I give as instruments to create music,
color, weaving material into family members

Obojee an emerald
harmony a pearl
an amethyst named uni
and omah the hard red ruby

then with my hands filled
I look at the diamonds
so many diamonds
sprinkled in between

~little black rainbows that
somehow we forgot to burn

and in looking in their mirror
(when no one is looking)

I see their flames like twine

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