“Flower in an Hour Glass”

Grandma is visiting us

she got a really bad perm 

and her hearing has worsened since her last visit

They love her, but The Teens don’t like kimchi

Obvious and unsaid:

You, my daughters, are the land

ravaged by a series of battles from all sides,

the cry of hungry orphans

and thousands of years of cultural pride

You are the Hermit Kingdom and King Sejong’s children –

the offspring of a man who reinvented an alphabet

so the common man as well as royalty

could read –

You are women warriors 

You might have to fight 

for what others are given 

but you will never back down

I’m Right Here

My mom was here again, for another lovely visit.  Although most of her visits are always quite pleasant, there is one time I dread: dinner.  I have to be patient with my husband and my mom during dinner because she cannot shake the nasty habit of speaking to me ABOUT Willey in front of him. It is rooted in the depths of her Korean soul to speak as indirectly to him as possible. In so doing, she uses me as a communication vessel. It’s almost as if she feels the need for a translator, and it annoys Willey to no end. It’s like a scene from Groundhog Day: we just live it over and over and over again.

Yooni with her new eyelash extensions!

We were sitting down to a meal of sujehbee, my favorite dish of dumplings in spicy broth.
“Caroline, does he really like sujehbee?” My mother asks. I look at him. He is sitting directly across from my mom. I know what his line will be:

“Yooni, why don’t you just ask me? I’m right here.” He asks exasperatedly. My blood pressure rises. The girls look from halmoni to their father back to halmoni.  She covers her face with her hands. She used to just cover her mouth, but lately, she covers her entire face, and giggles.

“Do you like it, Willeeee?” She leans forward and asks with a renewed sparkle in her eyes.
“I LOVE sujehbee!” He exclaims. “You can talk to me, you know. I’m Willey, remember?”
She laughs some more.
Such a brazen display of flirtation!


Preparing for bed, mom pulls the covers down and holds the TV remote. I am in the doorway of her guest room, saying good night.
“Caroline, have you seen this show?”
I look at the screen. There is an angry black woman with enormous gold hoop earrings yelling at a man. I don’t recognize this program.
“Hardcore Porn, they call.” She slips her legs under the cover.
I take another look. What? Why is she watching porn?! I don’t see any nudity and realize after a few more seconds, that she is not watching porn.
“Mom, Hardcore PAWN, not PORN.”
“Ohhhhh!” Again with the face hiding and laughter.


I love dogs. I miss my dog Maggie. Even though I notified my mother by phone when Maggie died – despite knowing Maggie was gone – the first time my mother walked into our home following Maggie’s death, she looked around like a little kid and with tears streaming down her face, and asked in Korean, “Where is Maggie?” They were best buddies. They reminded me of each other: kind and meek to a fault. My mom walked Maggie every morning and sometimes in the afternoons, too. And even though she swears up and down that she didn’t feed her table scraps, I know she did.

Sadie the Lap Dog

We had hugged each other and cried, missing that dog. Now we have Sadie, who is an oversized lap dog with a strong personality. We think she’s part Labrador and part Pit Bull. I talk to this dog for the benefit of the family. After I pet her, she always shakes her whole body and I say things like, “Sadie, don’t shake my love off!” And now I hear the girls say the same thing to her.  In the guest room, the windows face the street and Sadie loves looking out and barking at rabbits, birds and leaves on the tree. Seriously, this dog is out of control. When she’s not barking, she’s whining. Compared to her, Maggie was a mute. I tease, “Sadie, look at the mess you are making on the windows!” And my mother echoes my fake consternation, “Sadie, look what you did with your lips!”