Three Dreams of Korea: Notes on Adoption by Lee Herrick

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1.

This one happens in the morning

as a nearby crow wakes me,

calling God, God, look at this:

I am on the steps of a church,

wrapped in Monday’s Korea Times

telling of the drought in Pusan.

You can live by the water

and still die of thirst, and I,

there on the cold brick steps,

am dying. But dying

means the presence of breath.

This one happens on Hangul Day,

Independence Day in Seoul,

where girls in purple satin

hanboks parade through

downtown streets. In this dream

I make eye contact with

every single one of them.

Another boy, a few years

older than I, rides

a tricycle in the streets

trailing the girls.

He sees me. He winks,

as if he knows how

everything will end.

2.

This one happens in the evening

just as daylight surrenders to the moon,

and the flute of dusk arrives.

It is cool.

I am wrapped in a sky blue blanket,

so whoever finds me thinks kindly

of whoever left me.

The one one finds me is a nun.

She opens the door, looking

beyond me

into the tired night,

then looks down.

She gasps softly.

She says, ahneyong, you sweet

beautiful child. She bends

down like an angel

and takes me

into her arms.

3.

This one happens in the cruelest moment

of the day, as heat curls flowers

into dirt. A man, drunk

with despair, screams at the sun.

His sorrow is a collage of

moths and ants, crawling

from his face to his chest.

I watch from the steps.

It is the year of the dog

and I am a part of it:

unable to speak

but an expert at listening:

to the old man from Laos who sits

on the steps two buildings down:

he is telling another man

how Hmong children become human

on the third day of life,

after the soul calling ceremony

and the burning of animal flesh.

He smokes from a pipe

and closes his eyes as he inhales.

I can hear all of his.

I can hear a woman rustling inside the church.

She is a dancer, so she speaks with her hands.

I hear her rise, sweetly

from her knees to her feet.

This means she believes

in dreams. I hear her

slide her hand, sweetly

along her hair. This means

she believes in the sun.

I hear her move towards me

and place her open palm on the door.

This means she welcomes me.

This means she believes

in the miracle of possibility.

Golden Rule #1: Love Thy Neighbour as Yourself

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Do you consider yourself a religious person? How significant is religion in your life? Religion has always been a fundamental part of my life. I grew up in a Christian home and identify as a Christian. As a young girl, I was deeply involved with my church. I regularly attended Sunday School, eagerly participated in AWANA, and eventually found like minded friends through my youth group. Church was my community. It was where I first learned the popular Golden Rules: Love thy neighbour as thyself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These formative lessons helped me navigate my small protected world.

Bible Camp was also a place where I learned about God. I can remember  fondly singing a song with the lyrics, “There’s only one way to heaven and it’s Jesus.” I sang that song with such conviction. But now as an adult, I question how having faith in God secures me a place in heaven. It seems to defy reason. And what if I believe in a different deity like Buddha or Allah then am I automatically doomed? Why is Jesus the only way?

I understand that my son will first begin to construct his worldview from the beliefs and truths that I teach him at home. Even though I was raised a Christian, maybe Christianity isn’t something he will prescribe to. How would I feel if he decided to practice Buddhism or even Islam? Would I be fearful or feel disappointed that he doesn’t believe in my God?

Maybe it’s equally important that my son learns how to be empathetic towards others who are different from him or that he is able to be objective when others challenge his perspectives, or even critically question the status quo, rather than what religion he practices. I’d like to think that he can make his own decision similar to who he will choose to befriend at school or which college he wants to attend. Perhaps in this moment, it really is as simple as loving my neighbor as myself.

Salvation by Lee Herrick

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The blues is what mothers do not tell their loved sons,

in church or otherwise, how their bodies forgave

them when their spirits gave in, how you salvage love

by praying for something acoustic, something clean

and simple like the ideal room, one with a shelf

with your three favorite books and a photo

from your childhood, the one of you with the

big grin before your knew about the blues.

I wonder what songs my birth mother sang in

the five months she fed me before she left me

on the steps of a church in South Korea.

I wonder if they sounded like Sarah Chang’s

quivering bow, that deep chant of a mother

saying goodbye to her son. Who can really say?

Sometimes all we have is the blues. The blues means

finding a song in the abandonment, one

you can sing in the middle of the night when

you remember that your Korean name, Kwang Soo

Lee, means bright light, something that can illuminate

or shine, like tears, little drops of liquefied God,

glistening down your brown face. I wonder

what songs my birth mother sings and if she sings

them for me, what stories her body might tell.

I have come to believe that the blues is the body’s

salvation, a chorus of scars to remind you

that you are here, not where you feared you would be,

but here, flawed, angelic, and full of light.

I believe the blues is the spirit’s wreckage,

examined and damaged but whole again, more full

and prepared then it’s ever been, quiet and still,

just as it was always meant to be.