A Sestina for my Mother

Linda Patterson, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts


It was a dark time for childhood.

The Japanese ruled Korea

Food was scarce, my relatives starved

Life was painful for my mother.

She watched siblings suffer and die

All this caused her to become hard.

Responsibility was hard,

She never had a childhood.

At eight she watched her brother die.

Poor go un-helped in Korea.

His care fell under my mother

She watched as other siblings starved

Given away before she starved

My grandmother’s choices were hard.

To Japan she sent my mother

So she would survive childhood

A concubine from Korea

Was better than waiting to die.

My grandmother was doomed to die

Gaining surgery while they starved

was unlikely in Korea.

Making the sacrifice was hard

To leave her home of childhood

And marry to save her mother.

Father bought the hand of mother

So my grandmother would not die

Seeing too much in childhood

She chose to spend her life love starved.

The move to this country was hard

As was leaving loved Korea.

Never again would Korea

Be home for my lonely mother

Missing her sibling’s deaths was hard

One of the last of twelve to die

It is their love for which she starved

She regrets her lost childhood.

She had no choice in childhood

But to watch as family starve

And feel guilt when she did not die.