My Mother’s Sisters – III
POETRY: FIRST PLACE
“My Mother’s Sisters – III” is a poem about the third daughter in my mother’s family. After having one daughter and one son, my grandmother gave birth to two daughters consecutively; before she could give birth to two sons, also, consecutively. In Korea, we believe that someone’s life and their fortune is determined by their name. Is not giving someone a fate of “lotus” worth having two more sons? This poem is a tribute to my aunt, 희자 이모, who has the brightest and loudest laugh I’ve ever seen. I love you.
The never-ending mystery of my younger days: how my mother’s sister was rid of the blessing
of becoming the lotus flower, the Yeon girls. Lying down next to my mother’s sisters,
in the night of closed invitation for the secret-bearing, fate-twisted women, I step across
the doorsill of the open arches of the eyes, into the dark void of the retina to arrive
at the star-studded field waking up to the unwelcomed cry.
When my mother’s sister was born, after her sister, and her sister after her older sister, the household held
the belief that they were cursed with endless daughters. Chasing after an admirable monk, high
up in the mountains, they finally came into a possession of a name fortunate
enough to forsake the curse. Thus, she was blessed with the name of an end-girl. The name without
meaning: the name that only intends to end: to end this: to end the unwanted lineage
of girls: the name meaningless unless a boy follows: the forsaken girl. For the sake of her
expected brothers, a current of life shifted: a lotus never blossomed.
My mother sometimes laughs and says, at least she was given love for her part in bringing
the boys into the world. But I think of her name, 犧 to sacrifice, 子 for the men, and how her name
dried up her life from the bud. How it is the most unfair for the one who most deserves
the spirit of lotus, emerging from the thickest mud.
In the lineage of 蓮, among the four lotus sisters, lay the one without the fate of the Yeon. With her
own twisted fate, she was taken away her petals, curled up in the unbreakable shell
to be returned to her sisters she was destined to end. But, today I call her 喜子, laugh and delight.
Dabin Jeong (she/they) is a poet who explores East Asian representation, Asian/American identity, and the immigrant experience through creative and academic praxis. Her poem won Chestnut Review’s 2021 Stubborn Writer’s Contest, selected by Dorothy Chan. Their works appeared or are forthcoming in Chestnut Review, Perhappened mag, and Chogwa zine. She is also a poetry editor at The Hanok Review.