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07. Love language

My mother had been struggling with a psychosomatic disorder since 2020. She got better then worse. In May of 2022 she hit a new low and stayed with my husband and I for three weeks until she finally went back to the hospital for treatment. I suffered from stress and anxiety while she stayed at our home in San Francisco. I was angry that she relied on me, afraid of her total dependency and didn’t know how to be kind to her. Nothing I said to her made her feel better. She would call my name in pain and refused to be left alone. When I wrote this piece the best thing I could do for her at the time was to greet her when she awoke, ask her how she slept, offer her breakfast. Later in October after she was better I wrote a poem in the form of a letter addressed to my mother as a prequel to the piece. It’s so terribly sad.


I don’t remember when I broke my arm

I was two years old

I know that I broke my arm when I was two years old 

because you told me about it.


You told me that I fell off a chair

That I cried 

That I cried in my sleep that night

That the next morning I couldn’t carry even a small apple 

So you took me to a hospital and we found out my arm was broken. 


You told me this story to praise my resiliency 

But maybe I needed to be comforted

I cried in my sleep with a broken arm - alone

I was two.



I don’t remember the time you took me and my brother to your friend’s house 

I was a baby

I know about the time you took me and my brother to your friend’s house when I was a baby 

because you told me about it. 


You told me that I was such a quiet baby

That I slept well 

That when you were leaving 

you forgot to take me with you 


Until my brother reminded you

That I was sleeping in the other room.


You told me this story to praise my quietness 

How well I slept 

But maybe I needed to not be forgotten 


By you 

My mother 

I was a baby.



I remember when you and Otosan divorced 

I was twenty and away at college. 


You called crying 

You worried about money 

You picked up more hours at your job 

and got promoted and became a manager 


You worked and worked and talked about your colleagues 

Never about yourself 


When I asked How are you? you answered with work gossip 

I said I didn’t want to hear about people I don’t know 

I said I think that’s rude 


I asked How are YOU? 



I remember when you had to retire because of the pandemic

You suffered from pain in your throat

You said you couldn’t breathe 

like George Floyd. 


I came to you and took you to the Mayo Clinic 

We went to the otolaryngologist (oto la ryn GO lo gist)

the neurologist 

the gastroenterologist 

the pulmonologist (pull mo NO lo gist)

the psychologist 


You were diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety

You checked into the behavioral health clinic 

and received electroconvulsive therapy

like One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest

You took many pills. 


After your hospital stay you were full of energy 

You came to San Francisco to see me and Thor 

We went hiking in Pacifica and ate Korean food outside 

You went to see my brother’s family in Tokyo and played with your grandkids 

My niece and nephew


You refused to do talk therapy 

You repeatedly said you weren’t sad or lonely


But maybe you’ve been sad and lonely 

ever since I’ve known you 

Ever since I was a baby 

when you forgot about me sleeping in the other room at your friend’s house

Ever since I was two 

and broke my arm and you let me cry overnight alone 


And maybe you couldn’t remember me or comfort me 

because you were sad and lonely

all this time.



I can’t offer you 

words to make you less sad or less lonely 


What I can offer - 






Good morning, Mom

Did you sleep well?

Did you have a dream?

Here's breakfast, fruit salad, a little tea.

I was encouraged by Professor Francis Wong to talk about my music in his Asian American Musical Communities class and presented this piece along with two others. I read the poem first and played the music after. The poem and the music came from the same source of inspiration but I hadn’t considered them together as one performance. I was surprised they went well together. I liked that the sadness in the poem seemed to soften with music. I wasn’t good at moving away from self-victimization and retraumatization in writing but could get to processing and healing through music.

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