In the Language of Love, My Mother, My Ghost: One Day We Will Meet (by Andrew Garbisch)

This week’s blog post includes a linked audio file. Just click on the link below if you would like to hear the post read aloud. Scroll down to read the text.

Our guest blogger this week, Andrew Garbisch (Jeon, Deok Young), is a graduate student in the Teacher Education and Curriculum program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests focus on adoption, haunting, and identity formation through story-telling and spoken word. He focuses on how Cathartic Language Spaces function in identity development and how they can connect marginalized groups and attend to the silence of negative spaces. He also focuses on what he calls “Indigenous Ways of NOT Knowing” that key in on the situated knowledge adoptees develop through experiences of being too Asian to be White and too White to be Asian (Hoffman & Peña, 2013).


Haunting is the cost of subjugation. It is a constituent element of modern social life. It is neither superstition nor individual psychosis; it is a generalizable social phenomenon of great importance. To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it. This confrontation produces a fundamental change in the way we create knowledge (Tuck, 2013).

If you turn your head away and bend your ear pretending not to listen I will let you stay. I tell of my ghosts because I care about you understanding them, but I care more about concealing parts of myself from you. You are not aware of how dangerous you can be to me and that makes me dangerous to you. Thus, while I tell you this ghost story, I keep my arm extended to determine the length of your gaze (Tuck, 2013).

My language portrait is syntactically tactical. It is not English, nor is it time bound, or of a particular place. My language works to attend to the silence created by negative spaces. It is my lifetime of acquired knowledge that is outside the acceptable versions of knowing. It is my “Indigenous Way of Not Knowing.” My language portrait cuts close to the bone because I am not new to this but I am true to this.

So Omma, let me talk to you across time, across geography, and across culture. Let me speak to you in the language we both know. Let me acknowledge your presence and tell you that “I saw you.” Let me speak to you in the language of tears, the language of poetry. This is my project to write you into life, to write your wrongs so I can begin to wrong your wrongs (Tuck, 2013). Some may call my syntax “incorrect.” I prefer to omit the prefix and then rename it desire. Some may call my syntax foreign. I call it home. Some may call my syntax beautiful, but I call it haunting.  

Indigenous Way of Not Knowing:

In Between Knowing and Knowing,

That’s where my knowledge lies,

Too White to be Korean, and too Korean to be White,

It’s the battle that I fight, it’s the battle I despise,

Indigenous to my borderland,

Woodland, wetland, wasteland, unmanned,

My indigenous ways of NOT knowing, tell me…

She no longer waits, on the other side of the ampersand,

Endangered roots, the remainder of dogmatic efforts to retain her,

My indigenous not knowing, is knowledge of ancient remanence remainder,

Beautiful, purple Korean skies, disguise my purple heart, soaked in danger,

Branded now, the end, sunset paradox, can’t ever regain her,

Tell me, how can it be, that my own mother is my ultimate stranger?

This is the knowledge I’ve gain, the knowledge of pain,

Otherworldly, Specter, the ghost to which I tether,

Destiny speaks, never any earthly business being together,

Re-growing, my love for you, now always bestowing,

Because, this, is my indigenous way, of NOT knowing

Home: In Between Phantom Lives and Tuesday Ghosts

Fall 2017:

Don’t wait up for me, I’ll be home on Tuesday. I think I am becoming a Tuesday person.  For three hours on a Tuesday night I sit in a drab classroom numbered 306. A woman dressed in a red overcoat sits in front of me. This woman has been my professor on Tuesday night each of the past two semesters. I always work hard, I always do my best, and I know that I am smart. But it is on Tuesday nights that I try to work even harder, I try to do better, and I act smarter than I actually am. Omma, she does not know this but she was already my favorite teacher before she even ever said a word. I have never had a teacher that looked like me. I have never had a teacher who teaches a curriculum about me. I have never had a teacher that listened so well to me. Visibility is as empowering as invisibility is defeating. She has taught many lessons of value but none more important than there is never a wrong time to see yourself in your education. For three hours on a Tuesday night that drab classroom becomes my palace. I blink my eyes and suddenly I am at Yonsei. I blink again and I am sitting on the beach on Jeju island. Omma, this is my immigrant side. However, it is when I do not blink and I look again I am whisked to a much more remote place, an almost forgotten place. I am whisked to a small village. I hear the laughter of a little girl and a little boy of my past. They used to be my sister and brother. I smell the aroma of Bibimbop cooking in a ceramic pot in front of me. It may have been my favorite food. I look across the table and see the eyes of my phantom life. This is my adopted side. She does not know this, but when I look at her I see you, my crimson ghost. That is why I think I have become a Tuesday person. For three hours on Tuesday night, I am no longer alone and I can finally come home. So Omma, don’t wait up for me, I’ll be home on Tuesday.

Time: 10,000 Years Out of Time

March 2019:

I know you are dead now, you already told me. It is a cold March night in the northeast. Harvard Square is quiet. I have become accustomed to your visits now. I now look forward to them, the hairs on my arms raise reverberating heart shock, heart beat to my S(e)oul. I now know when you’re here. This is my intentional attention. Hourglass vigilante, I devour human structure to feast on the past. Haunting me is your gift to me and it will soon be my birthday. You are my beloved Omma ghost but I must tell you, I am a man now not a boy. Trust me, head turned as if not to notice I have been listening and now I relish running my callused hands over the gaps, illusions, and confusions, tracing the moments that were not, so that they can be. Tonight, you wear a black overcoat and underneath a crème colored sweater. You are considerably younger than the last time you visited me. Tonight, is a special night because time does not exist tonight. You want me to read to you one of the poems I have written for you. I will read you Seaweed Soup. You softly turn your head away from me as to reveal only your jet -black locks and a small portion of your face. As I read, you take me back to my old forgotten village, it’s been so long. Mile by mile your side profile brings me back to Busan. You stayed, head on your arm not a movement to let me have that moment. I read that poem for 10,000 years and when I was done you told me you could never write like that. So, I told you Omma, it was you who pushed my pen.

Into Existence

Even though you are gone, your ghost will live on,

And my dream for us to convene has come true and it’s much a part of you,

So, I hope to one day jump through all their hoops,

And sit peacefully with you and eat seaweed soup,

Not all breaks are permanent, not all diasporas remembered,

And I write all your wrongs to honor the roots we’ve surrendered,

Lead me not into temptation for temptation is silence,

And silence manifests into historical violence,

To you Omma, the woman I’ve never met but known 10,000 years,

When we finally meet, I will drink your eyes and wipe away your tears


Hoffman, J., & Peña, E. V. (2013). Too Korean to be White and Too White to Be Korean: Ethnic Identity Development Among Transracial Korean American Adoptees. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice50(2), 152-170. doi:10.1515/jsarp-2013-0012

Tuck, E., & Ree. (2013). A glossary of haunting. In Handbook of Autoethnography. London, England: Routledge.

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