Kavad: Mother Tongues
Yujung Kim / Helena Chung



Yujung Kim

It was nice to have a chance to talk about my life to my first daughter who really wants to understand me. I almost cried when my daughter read the poem she wrote about me. I am the luckiest and the happiest mom in the world who got to listen to the artistry of poem written by my daughter.


Helena Chung

When I was younger, I felt like I didn’t really know her as a person capable of so many things, I was immature, so I just knew her as my mother. But getting to know her more, though I can’t say I have a complete understanding of her, I can definitely say I have gotten to know her a lot better. Mother Tongues, has not only helped me better understand and admire my mother, but I also feel like it just gave us quality time to talk to each other. 


Interview Excerpt


When people ask “what are you?” how do you respond?

I’m Korean American


In Korean, we say “gyopo,” because that’s who I am. I am a Korean who lives in America.

What about your personality?

Me? I am the kind of person who is really patient, tolerant to everything? But when I get angry, you know me right?

You’re so scary…

Yeah, but it’s like in my whole life, you can count. It’s under ten times, for my entire life, I’m now 46, and I think it’s between five and ten, right? You know I’m the kind of person who is also very diligent and responsible…I guess? No I’m not?

Yes, you are.

I want to run my household clean and tight, it’s not necessary to be perfect, but still I want to run my household properly, that’s the thing I’m trying to do, not to be the very best, but in a common sense way…it should reach some level of standard.


Helena's poem to Yujung


Requests for a Bedtime Story

“The happiest moment of my life,”
mother says, “was when you got into college.”
The sunlight chokes first the window,
then our shoulders, and feels too warm,
like the sticky space we make between our
clasped hands when our boots are too big.

That answer, like a small imperfect grape,
a dried magnolia petal, I want to say, “mother,
even you were once a different person,
when you stood in front of grandmother,
scissors in hand, clumps of hair like islands
on the tiled kitchen floor, when you drove

too many miles into the California sun.
Tell me about when you felt too
small in the world, like I do still,
tell me about strong livers and blistered feet,
the battles you held in your hands
when you were still learning to use them.