Poem | Leaving Home | Dai Sil Kim-Gibson
One winter daybreak, in 1945
My grandmother woke me up,
And presented a bowl of steaming
chicken soup. My eyes half closed,
my body longing to crawl back
into my warm quilt, I said, “What is this?
I do not want to eat anything.
I just want to go back to sleep!”
Her eyes, quiet but firm, sent me
to the bowl of soup. I dressed in a hurry
and sat up with a spoon in my hand.
Then she pulled me away
From the house where I was born and
grew up in North Korea.
Hastening me to walk
With a little knapsack on my back
In the company of my brothers and sister
As my house vanished
The sun blazing over the hills and streets
I was stunned and frightened
I asked my grandmother
“Where are we going?”
“To the south.”
“What’s in the south?”
“Whatever democracy is,
I don’t want it. I want to stay here.”
I was seven then.
I walked on
Crossing what the grown-ups called
38th parallel. I had no idea what
Was going on. I only knew that
No more questions were invited.
Sadness in my heart,
I did not float in joy
I saw only the dazzling darkness.
After all these years
In the land across the ocean
That winter morning never forgotten,
I wonder if I ever found “democracy,”
In the South Korea where I grew up
To be a woman, or in America
Where I crossed the ocean to study.
If South did not give me democracy,
Still, it moistens my eyes with
Longing and fills my heart with
prayers for a soulful society where
human compassion and hope abound.
I hear the grainy voice of
My loved one, Don, who joins in
Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, who has a Ph.D in religion and formerly taught at Mount Holyoke College, is an award-winning independent filmmaker and writer known for championing neglected issues of human rights. Born in Northern Korea, she recently completed her eighth and most personal film, People Are the Sky. Produced in North Korea in 2013 and 2014, This film about North Korea connects two ideas: the search for home, and the nature of ordinary people, while exploring the evolution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in relation to the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the USA.