Sing For Me, Grandmother
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Won’t you sing a song for me, grandmother?
When I was young, you used to rock me in your arms with a lullabye.
Murmuring those words amid the haze of the high hills of Korea never ceases to bring a silvered tear,
to the corner of my eye.
Together, we gazed out over those rice fields of Sichuan,
at the old men and water oxen.
I’m sorry, grandmother, for leaving you.
for seven long, arduous years,
I have stayed at your side, watching you grow,
older, frailer, more sullen and gray.
I was still a child, then, but even then it was only just enough, to soothe away the hardened apathies,
in a Japanese officer’s sympathies.
After the war, we moved away to the city.
You swore to forget.
But it was hard to forget, in the excitement that followed,
the red flags, the cheering, trappings of a new China, hailed through enlivened, unyielding government chatter,
which wafted into our ears from the newfound radio.
Some days when I came home from school, you sat, hunched over the staircase window,
sunning under shafts of hazy light,
curiously watching the procession down below.
And when I grabbed the courage to ask:
“Why would you want to forget? We have triumphed over the past!”
You only looked at me and said:
“Promise me, my grandson, never go fight a war for which our wounds would forever last.”

Five years later, from the north-east came in the news:
Korea had been split in two.
The Americans had sent the North teetering,
over the bloodied banks of the Yalu.

Something ticked me about the Americans,
they stirred those memories,
of the way Japanese came, bearing the rank scent of death,
setting those fields and woods alight,
with strange tongues and artillery smoke,
poking and prodding the old men with bayonets,
carting off the whimpering, congealing bodies of beasts,
savaging the land, uncaring of the thousands of tormented wails,
those subconscious fears alone,
pulling away the last of the failed, falling facade,
of my own meek veil.


Pray for me, grandmother.
The Japanese and Americans aren’t equal to each other.
In one, the glare that pierces with animosity, brutality; in the other, scared young eyes,
darting from one corner to another.
To see a man pick up a tear-stained picture of their sweetheart from the scorched, bitter crust,
running a soiled, gunpowder-splotched finger, watching the soft, rounded face crumble and blow away into morning must,
casting my eyes to see the lifeless features of both revered friends and vengeful foes,
reduced to nothing but corpses, lying still in the snow.
Forgive me, grandmother.
I should have known why,
you threw yourself upon my brand-new military tunic,
Sobbing, pleading with me to rescind,
to which I ran out the door, into the menagerie,
of trains, marches, supply line implosions,
drifting us further away from the alluring rice fields, the cities,
the old men and water oxen I ever did know.
I promise, grandmother, if I ever do come home,
never again I would go fight and endure another war,
for which our wounds would show forever.
Rest assured, however,
in the lulls between the rolling American thunder,
we slip into slumber, cradling our rifles,
under the moon's milky white beams,
walking home in our minds,
treading so fast and free,
upon radiant, heavenly dreams.

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