by Rev. Javier Olivares, West District Superintendent
May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month in our country. As I was reading some poems of Asian American authors, I came across one that caught my attention by Lee Herrick, an author who was born in Daejeon, Korea and was adopted in the United States at ten months old. Since during this month we also celebrate Mother’s Day, I thought this poem was appropriate for the occasion.
How Music Stays in the Body
By Lee Herrick
How Music Stays in the Body by Lee Herrick – Poems | poets.org
Your body is a song called birth
or first mother, a miracle that gave birth
to another exquisite song. One song raises
three boys with a white husband. One song
fought an American war overseas. One song leapt
from fourteen stories high, and like a dead bird,
shattered into the clouds. Most forgot the lyrics
to their own bodies or decided to paint abstracts
of mountains or moons in the shape of your face.
I’ve been told Mothers don’t forget the body.
I can’t remember your face, the shape or story,
or how you held me the day I was born, so
I wrote one thousand poems to survive.
I want to sing with you in an open field,
a simple room, or a quiet bar. I want to hear
your opinions about angels. Truth is, angels drink,
too— soju spilled on the halo, white wings sticky
with gin, as if any mother could forget the music
that left her. You should hear how loudly I sing
now. I’ve become a ballad of wild dreams and coping
mechanisms. I can breathe now through any fire.
I imagine I got this from him or you, my earthly
inheritance: your arms, your sigh, your heavy song.
I know all the lyrics. I know all the blood.
I know why angels howl in the moonlight.
Originally published in The Motherland (Todammedia, Korea, 2018), edited by Laura Wachs.
This is a powerful piece that touches the deepest fibers of our hearts as we think about those “songs,” the ones who raised us, who loved us, whose “music” we still hear in our bodies.
During this month where we remember and celebrate mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, and daughters, I want to also invite you to create some awareness regarding AAPI heritage month. Read articles, books, or poetry from Asian or Pacific Islander authors.
Below is a link of ways you can celebrate or learn more about AAPI.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2022 (asianpacificheritage.gov)
Our United Methodist denomination via General Commission on Religion and Race has also put out information.
10 Things to Know about Asian Americans — R-Squared (r2hub.org)
The more we know, the more we invest our time and energy to discover about people different from our own culture, the more we grow and the more we reflect the love of Christ.
Peace be with you,