it was cold that day.
my frail body shaking
despite layers of cloth that
strung me to my mother’s back.
she pat my back,
lovingly whispering “괜찮아”.
the salt from my tears
mixed with the rainwater
above the yalu river
quenching my thirst,
and my mother’s thirst for freedom.
i remember curling up into a ball
to stop the pains jolting
up my stomach.
i don’t remember seeing my mother’s feet:
blue from the icy river,
blood drying on the insides of her shoes
forming tiny knives that bit
at the bottoms of her too-tight shoes.
the harsh wind blew through her hair,
gave her aches
like a hammer knocking at a stubborn nail
refusing to be pinned into the wall.
tap. tap. tap.
i don’t remember my mother speaking to the authorities,
her voice soft and pleading
like silk flapping in the wind.
i don’t remember my mother’s screams
and her calluses from soap on too many clothes and dishes.
i don’t remember
because my mother gave her freedom
waking up in a new town
far from my home in north korea.
i remember making a new life
with my thai friends, laughing over a bowl
of fried noodles.
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