The Struggle in Korea, Too

Old women here bend over trash cans searching for recyclables
just as they do back home, these aged, frail women who stuff huge bags full
of treasure that most of us consider trash, unworthy of our consideration,
like the earth, a mother we watch shrivel into an uncertain future,
not knowing if she will see tomorrow, but holding out hope by keeping on.

No one in the group seems to notices her except me, and I’m struck
by the awfulness of this picture postcard moment to send back home to everyone,
being consigned to a life fighting against the insensitivity of so many tourists,
for her a way of kindly paying back in order to eat, a few coins her reward.
For her it’s no playground; the field is not level, and she slaves from early to late,
trying to keep up with this onslaught of aluminum and plastic that could bury her.

I’ll relegate this memory to a footnote in the appendix of my book –
a simple operation these days compared to those gone by with hospital stays.
We know that it was one over-performed before the medical community,
and the insurance companies decided it was not always called for
in every single blessed case, only absolutely necessary when it burst, releasing toxins
that might kill you – but I digress on the way to forgetting this memory.

Most people do not have that scar to show anymore when they’re comparing,
as I’ll guess she doesn’t either, the toxins not having killed her yet completely.

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