Poetry by Jenny Ahn

My Mother as a Schoolgirl, South Jeolla Province, 1970

My mother crosses her arms
and stands next to a girl.

To her right, a black sleeve
half sliced picture of a worm.

The teacher’s grayed trousers,
the edge of a moon.

My fingers enter his lack, question it.
This faceless tower and
my mother’s frowning eyes.

He carried a stick and poked the children.
He was so mean. I think he liked it.

She was class leader every year.
I’m looking for my visions.

This is a retreat to the mountains.
Small hands and sweaty tin boxes.
Rice, eggs, dried anchovies, gim.

My mother herding the other children.
The things her small arms do
to wave away the stick.

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