her journey


at the emergency room,
they kept using the word ‘spontaneous’
and as i held her hand,
trying to stop myself from shaking,
i almost told her everything.
i got as far as saying that i was to blame
and staring at the floor.
but she said
i was being ridiculous,
that these things couldn’t be my fault,
as my fingers gripped the steering wheel
of our car that wouldn’t move
in the hospital garage,
calling my mother to tell her
and listening to her say nothing back.

it began with her
as the war broke out in korea,
the abductions.
she first saw the lights above her
as she hid in a row board,
lying still and quiet on her back,
smiling at the way the colors in the sky moved,
and days later, when her father tied her to a chair
in the back room because he had to save his family
from the communist invasion
and one more girl was too much of a burden.
he told her to be quiet
but she wouldn’t.
she screamed and she cried there alone.
they came, the ones from the lights in the sky,
untying her
and taking her over the ocean.

dad says it started for him around the same time
during the war that divided our homeland.
his father, my grandpa, the one with the belly
and the first one of us that made contact,
how he tried to buy time for his family
with a handshake deal while
my father, his second son,
carried his little sister
across the border in the night
to hide from the lights above.
sometimes i hear him angry
that we have been stuck in this life of running,
of hiding in the jungle in paraguay
as the invisible dragons circled
the air above chile,
of accepting our ability to sacrifice
friends and lovers to save ourselves.

it is strange.
the first they told me this
was on gramercy drive,
the living room with the gray carpet
of unit six, 950 gramercy drive,
my parents sitting on the couch,
how he leaned forward and tapped
mindlessly on the coffee table with his paint
caked fingers while my mother
started adding the pink yarn to the blanket—
standing in front of them
with my arms straight down to my sides
as he said,
son, in this life, you can’t have friends
because you will have to lose them.

he never warned me about what happens
to our children,
how sometimes they are taken
before we can even know their skin,
or maybe i just hoped it would be different for mine.

it’s been over two years now
since she’s been gone,
taken on her journey from judy’s womb.
spontaneous.

but last night,
she was here.
i rolled over to my left
and in my half sleep
saw her standing five feet away.
she had grown,
in a pale dress and boots,
a jacket hugging tight around her shoulders.
she looked to be around ten years old
and in that moment i couldn’t remember
how long ago was that day
that i can never escape.

she smiled, standing in a beam of light,
her hand lifting into the air,
to say hello, to say stop, to say stay,
and i bolted up,
waking up screaming,
hand reaching out across my wife’s body,
to the light that filtered in through the window,

judy startled
wrapping her arms around me through instinct
as i began to wail at the fading light,
telling her
that i thought i heard
our baby say
goodbye.