Birth/mark, Poetry Front Page

Three Poems | Heather Hauck

Upon Meeting My Mother

In my mind we sit across from each other in a crowded restaurant. The curve of your back reflects against the dark moonlight, a printed silk scarf holds the wisps of your gray hair away from your round face. I slowly memorize the lines around your dark thoughtful eyes, the shape of your delicate olive-skinned hands. I imagine I would see a reflection of myself-a glimpse of my truth revealed in the rhythms of your voice. 

With a tense breath, I hesitantly ask if I clinged to you when you rocked me to sleep. I wonder if I lifted my head when you walked into the room. And did you kiss me before you said goodbye? Maybe you don’t remember but my body never lets me forget. 

Words of forgiveness stay buried deep inside my mouth so instead I chase your shadow in my poems; let the grief shatter like broken glass leaving fragments of myself behind 

while I wait for the answers
I know will never come.

What I Tell Myself: Notes on Being an Asian American Woman

Why again, why another Asian woman
who looks like me
but is not like me
is dead
I am afraid of everything and nothing

my grief has no boundaries 

Internalized messages in every breath
taught me early on
don’t show too much skin
a moving target on display
be vigilant
never walk alone at night
standing by the tracks
my body is disposable

stay guarded
keep myself alive

Cramped in dark alley corners
Korean comfort women
ready for western consumption
an object of desire
six women shot dead
easy prey
a sexual addiction; this is not a hate crime

othered under the
white male gaze 

To whom it may concern:
A legal orphan abandoned by her birth parents
Mother: Unknown
Father: Unknown
Records: Erased
a childhood of silence
a lifetime of coping skills 

until my trauma is exploited

Why should I have to prove my existence
convince you that my life is valuable
tell me then, will I be worthy enough? 


Winter Air

I was born in late summer
across the Yellow Sea
where the damp winds blow inside
the shallow shores
the salt wet on my tongue
abandoned in the street
a motherless daughter
is how the story goes
and I wonder what is the truth.

Did my birth mother name me
after I was born?
Jung Ran 정란 means beautiful orchid
perhaps the sounds of my name
flowed gently from her mouth
like when a mother cradles her baby
and whispers I love you.

What is your mother’s surname?
The birth certificate gripped tightly in my hand
my head throbs against
the echoes
too heavy inside my ears
My daughter, you were not a mistake
I never wanted to give you away. 

Last night, I imagined
I bloomed delicate purple flowers
that leaned into the eastern sun
years of being dormant
the petals turned brown
not ready to leave this world
the roots dug into the muddy earth

I stepped outside
into the cold morning
breathing in the winter air
reborn like a bright moon
in the night sky.

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Filed under: Birth/mark, Poetry Front Page


Heather Hauck (she/her) was born near Daegu, South Korea. As a transracial Korean American adoptee she writes mostly about race, identity, and loss. Her work has appeared in Korean Quarterly, Visible Magazine, Children's Home Society of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota and she was a participant in the 2019 Twin Cities Listen to Your Mother. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family.