Clementine


Part of the non-coital pillow talk, as I was trying to sleep with one eye open and every fiber of my being tense, came this question,

“Do you know the REAL story of Clementine?”

“Wha?”

“You know, that children’s song. Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my dar-ling Clementine…”

“Yeah. What about it?”

So the “REAL” Story of Clementine is she is a fisherman’s daughter. The wife passes away, and the father treats the daughter like his wife. The daughter loves the father like a husband. A terrible storm hits the fishing village, and the whole village blames the calamity on their incest. The daughter commits suicide – and – heartsick, the father follows suit.

I tell her that it’s a CHILDREN’S STORY for God’s sake and no, I have never heard that. I thought the father was a miner. There was no mention of incest…a CHILDREN’S STORY. Not a horror story. I tell her it must be some Korean story, not an American story. She swears up and down it is the REAL story of Clementine.

I google it. Nope. Just as I remembered. The father is a miner. from the ’49 goldrush. His daughter is an ungainly behemoth that only a father could love willowy and beautiful. He can’t even afford to buy her shoes. She looks natural and beautiful in her bare feet. She dies and the father is sad.

Where the hell did this “REAL” story come from? Every day it seems I hear some such thing. How preposterous it is when Koreans tell Americans the REAL American story, like they know it better than we do…

On the way home today, I passed a little girl skipping, her mother following behind. She was singing Clementine in Korean. I wonder to myself if she is singing the “REAL” story, or the one handed down to me by my Florida cracker white mother. How surreal it is to hear the lovely sing-song voice of a beautiful Korean child singing an American folk song in Korean. How surreal it is I don’t know what she is saying.

I wonder if the little girl will grow up thinking American natural disasters are a result of incest. Little girl, YOU have your mom. No natural disasters occurred to my home town, despite my abuse. Just skip while you still can, and sing out loud without reservation.

The makkoli is especially good tonight. It is payday, and the weather is nice. Summer is over and with it, its oppressive humidity. I found a free internet connection at the GS25, and I’m playing Wilco’s More than the Moon, and remembering a brief minute when I was in love with a boy. A boy who wouldn’t follow me.

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