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  • Confronting My Father's Mistress
  • Tanya Ko Hong (bio)


Ten years after he diedI phone her.I could finally call himbastardin English.


Yeo bo say yo? she said (in Korean).

Can we talk? I asked (in English).

Ung, she said. I have no customers now.

I swallowed.How did you meetmy father?

I hear the train passing—

Through a friend, she said.

Liar. I heard:You were engaged.Your fiancé was in army.You were hairdresser in [End Page 250] our hometown.You knew.My father was married manrode bicycle baby girl in the basket.You met my fatherat night club.

After that someone sent milk andbread to my beauty shop everymorning.

You came to our house, I said.I was only seven.


It was children's day in May,my father's mistress,dressed in strawberry withvanilla hat.My mom served hertea, in my Dad's old socksgently tucked my father's ashtraynext to his folded pajamas.Only the smell of hisBenson & Hedgesremained.

The neighbors watchedexcited to seebloodplay their roles.

Your mother invited meI am his wife.These are his childrenyou must stop. [End Page 251]

You didn't, I said.Now, I am a mother.A wife.A woman too.

You told my mothershe makes love to emptiness.

How can I forget my mother losingher mind. A crazymoaning animal.I was fourteen.

Our daughter was born,she needed her father beside her,she said.


My Father robbed my older sister'sfirst name, JungGave it to herchild.Half of my namecut offfor herchild.It felt(I can't say it).


My daughter will be alonewhen I die. [End Page 252]


You    stole    my dad.You    stole    my name.You    stole    my childhood.


Too much silenceI hear the howls of my Mother'smothers their buried sorrowsAnd their thousands of yearshan.

I hang up the phone. [End Page 253]

Tanya Ko Hong

Tanya (Hyonhye) Ko Hong, poet, translator and cultural curator, is the author of four books, most recently, Mother to Myself: A Collection of Poems in Korean. Her work has appeared in Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cultural Weekly, great weather for MEDIA, Korea Central Daily News, The Aeolian Harp Series Anthology, and more. Her poem "Comfort Woman" received honorable mention in the 2015 Women's National Book Association. Tanya can be reached at