A Thank-you, an Apology, a Deliverance

A Thank-you, an Apology, a Deliverance

A Thank-you, an Apology, a Deliverance

A Poem by Maggie Qin Youngdale

I love you. And I forgive you.

Because, mother,

we have always been each other’s. 

I became yours

when the fear rose within you after 

your underwear was left unstained by specks of red

soon after you laid down with a man, 

either as an obligation or from desire,

and you waited, yearned, hoped that it wasn’t true.

I became yours

when you dreamed of easier times

and wished for better outcomes

as the tingling in your breasts grew 

and your hands and feet swelled.

You grew fascinated with this new life inside of you;

feeling every roll, kick, and punch to your stomach

as you cradled me 

with your fingers and your worries, wondering 

if I’d ever be like you.

If my veins would form hills along the bones,

if my voice would crack while under pressure, or 

if I’d ever embody my namesake, 

while piecing together a different reality for us. 

Your body became the epitome of motherhood

as I felt your laughter and heard your cries

when you thought there wasn’t enough money, or food, or luck

to make it through the blood-soaked sheets,

and the clenched eyes, and the greasy hair plastered to sweaty skin. 

But, when you felt my small wrinkled self

being lifted out from your defeated body 

and heard my shrieks pierce the air, 

relief spread.

You became mine

when you gave me the black birthmark around my right eye, and 

the long fingers that twist at the second knuckle, and 

the three small ridges on the roof of my mouth.

You became mine

when you tried to engrave me into your memory 

as you rubbed my fingers and toes

and held me against your breast,

letting me drink you up until I cried my lungs out

and laughed as small squeaks escaped my gaping mouth,

knowing that these precious memories we had of each other

would quickly dissipate.

Those few months that we existed together

were too short to be called forever 

and too long to be called a tragedy

when you whispered sweet nothings in my ear

and waited, yearned, hoped that I’d forgive you for letting me go. 

But, I couldn’t forgive you 

when I learned 

to drag another language across my tongue, and 

to smile more with my teeth than with my eyes, and 

to wear this skin as if it were my own.

I knew that I was supposed to be grateful

for my parents who embraced me before they could hold me:

for my father, who lost himself to the mundane help,

but still clings to the parts of himself he still has left, and

for my mother, who apologizes for existing by giving all of her love away,

for my sisters who cried tears for their mothers and laughed tears with our mother:

for my oldest sister, who forged our parents’ temperaments 

into armor and wields her sadness like a weapon,

for my second sister, who dances like everyone’s watching her 

and smiles like she’s never experienced pain.

I’m supposed to be grateful

for the ones who celebrate their forgiveness

by wearing the bruises on their knees like performance make-up, and 

for the ones who briefly returned to our homeland, 

only to feel even stranger there than they do here.

The ones who passed by others with 

curly hair, and crooked teeth,

darker skin, and dimpled cheeks,

but still couldn’t find any one who resembled them.

I’m supposed to be grateful, too,

for having another family, and 

going to school, and 

breathing clean air, and 

knowing what not to do.

But, if 

I’m supposed to be grateful for all of this,

then I’m also supposed to be grateful

for mothers, like you, 

whose sufferings were the currency for lives, like mine, to unfold.

Mothers, like you.

The nameless women.

The faceless women.

The ageless women.

And, no matter how grateful I may be,

gratitude doesn’t give life back to

mothers, like you,

who buried their children in their hearts

and waited, yearned, hoped that they would be forgiven. 

My mother, you, 

whose child grew up to be 

an adult, believing oversimplified answers to the never-ending questions

about why we were separated so long ago:

birthmark, female, unwanted, better life.

An adult 

who loves cheese and hates chocolate,

who fears the inevitable and their insignificance, 

whose chin stretches wide every time they smile their too big of a smile, and 

whose voice is the most unreliable thing about them.

An adult

who knows it’s selfish to want you to remember them;

to remember the shades of darkness that hid their right eye, and 

to know that they existed, once, in your imperfect memories

as they try to write you into theirself.

I wanted to believe 

that you hated that eternal blackness;

less because of its appearance 

and more about what it evoked.

Which was that,

it would’ve been impossible to cut it out of me

when there wasn’t enough money, or food, or luck

to make it through the wreckage and imprisonments

for choosing to hide me from the authorities.

I wanted to believe 

that those three black splotches 

were part of a blessing you casted

when you knew we couldn’t keep each other,

despite the constant inquiry from strangers

about its origin and appearance

that riddle my memories 

of bearing the only notable piece 

I thought I had left of you.

I used to believe

that if I ever came back to you

and you saw those same three black splotches surrounding my right eye, 

you’d know that we have always been each other’s. So,

I believed

that it was my responsibility

to carry that starless beauty for us,

until it became something hideously permanent

from the ignorance of strangers

that dulled my eyes 

and weighed down my heart, 

letting them bleed my blind hopefulness

into colorful rivers

of guilt and shame

before the first dark stain

was cut out of me.

But, I watched 

how a child peered through her glasses and smiled as she saw only one of everything and 

how a child bounced his three fingers up along the sides of a chair,

as if he was dancing along to the music of his joy,

how a child with scars over their flattened top lip and 

how a child with spots of light running down the middle of their chest

never seemed to hate these things about themselves,

which made me respect them, so enviously. Because,

to love these things that their mothers gave them would mean

to love how 

joy grew 

from the red of their mothers’ sorrows, 

from their tongues stumbling over characters,

from the beatings of different hearts they’ve pressed their chests up against, and

from the things they have and haven’t experienced yet.

To love this thing that you gave me would mean

to love the hope that you don’t suffer when you say my name,

to love these words that I’ve so carefully laced together for you, and

to love forgiving you for letting me go.

This life that you gave me is a double-edged sword: 

where joyous lives grew from your pain and my death, 

where the depths of my gratitude is filled with your blood, and

where my entire existence is still being shaped by your absence. So,

It is you, the one who gave me life, 

and the others, who taught me how to live it,

whom I dedicate this thank-you, apology, and deliverance to

in its entirety. 

Because, mother,

I forgive you. And I love you.

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