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Published: Sun Oct 1 2023
Eva Lin Fahey, High Tide (detail), 2022, watercolor and ink on paper
Online 2023 Journeys Family Loss
Tiger Mom

            on Mother’s Day 

When they ask about your tiger mom, I hope you’ll say I was soft

Say I was simple. Tenacious. That I chewed my own bones just
to keep my teeth sharp. That I once made soup for a sick vulture. That some 
evenings I circled you, like a choice, and fell asleep

Tell them we walked together, a bouquet of wild footsteps. Tell them 
about the good mornings, when I’d boil you an egg or tuck
a kiss in your pocket, or even the dark days, when I held a lighthouse 
between our hands. Tell them I did my best

The other night I dreamt a man was driving a truck across time and I 
hopped in its bed. At any moment memories sneak up on us, bum 
a ride. Once I stuck a roman candle in the ground and it fell over. Stars 
shot at our family instead of the sky. Pow, pow, pow, until your uncle 
kicked it away. When I met your father, he treated me like a holiday. 
We were so in love we lit each other on fire. He had no fireworks to give,
so he stole them. We made you: a perfect bottle rocket

You wonder why I bite a lie right out of you. Why I smother you 
in a mother’s temper before you ignite. Why you are having trouble 
breathing, why ashes stream down your cheeks. Child. You and I 
are divine, we are sacred. We are sacrifices, legends, proof
of prayer, protectors. We are small explosions, so fallen we can’t 
tell sky from being kicked

Will you believe me: that I can’t help but raise you like a rescue? 
Sometimes you sing the song I made you with, and all I hear are sirens. 
You cower the way I cower, so I cower again, because there are 
so many ways to ruin you. How was I, a clumsy, reckless girl, given 
such an important thing to tend to? How can I, an ordinary tiger, 
dare to celebrate or be celebrated? 

Be braver than I was so you can forgive yourself often! Tell them 
you’re the tiger’s son: an unfinished folk tale, a new tradition. The one 
she raised to be more powerful, more humble than anyone 
who might see her, more peaceful than the mountain spirit that leaned 
on her. Tell them your mom never stopped bursting. She leaped to love 
you, silenced herself into a roar


Next up in the portfolio: “Meanwhile” by Tiana Nobile

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Na Mee’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode, Lit Hub, AGNIThe Rumpus, Freeman’s, and the anthology Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. A Kundiman fellow, she is an Alaska Literary Award and three-time Rasmuson Foundation Award recipient, and has received support from The Aspen Institute, The Loft Literary Center, and Storyknife. She lives on Lingít Aaní (a.k.a. Juneau, Alaska), where she is raising a teenage son and a pack of animals. (updated 10/2023)

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