Podcast: La Llorona – Weeping Mothers

Radio of Resistance

S1E7: La Lllorona – Our Weeping Mothers

Hi, welcome back to the Radio of Resistance. I am Thanh Dinh, your host for this week’s episode. Amidst the chaotic times in the world outside, I hope you are staying safe. And moreover, I hope while listening to the Radio of Resistance, you can somehow, in some ways, let yourself off the hook.

So, Mother’s Day. There’s so much to talk about mothers. There’s nothing to talk about them.

I first heard the song La Llorona, performed by Bạch Yến in a summer not so far off in the distance past.

Ay de mí, Llorona, Llorona
Llorona de azul celeste
Ay de mí, Llorona, Llorona
Llorona de azul celeste

Alas, Llorona, Llorona, Llorona of sky-blue
Alas, Llorona, Llorona, Llorona of sky-blue

Watching the performance of Bạch Yến on stage, I kept thinking about the weeping mothers who ran across the borders of rivers and the borders of the death on her bare feet. Her beauty was falling in between and every where. Her eyes were filled with sorrow and madness. She kept searching for the love of her lover and the love of her lost children.

And unbeknowst to her, the spirit of her dead lover whispered to the wind, trying with all his mind, reaching far and wide, begging the Goddess of Dead and the Goddess of Wind to let his lover hear his confession one more time:

No dejaré de quererte, Llorona
Y, aunque la vida me cueste
No dejaré de quererte, Llorona
Y, aunque la vida me cueste

Although it costs me my life, Llorona
I will not stop loving you
Although it costs me my life, Llorona
I will not stop loving you

Of course, the ancient legend La Llorona popular in Mexico and South America bears a darker twist. The horror movies, “The Curse of La Llorona,” must have explained the legend in some form, or some way. Nevertheless, to the benefit of souls like mine, who, fear of the ghosts in the night and the darkness the human mind can conjure up, I will hereby explain the origin of La Llorona as is told in the Mexican and South American tale.

There are many variations of the ancient legend. La Llorona, or as English people like to put a translation to the name, The Wailing Woman, The Cryer, whatever name that would be more comforting to your ears.

To me, I like the translation of The Weeping Mother. And I will take my time to let you know why.

The legend of La Llorona is about a woman whose husband loved her children more than her. She caught her husband with his lover and in a fit of vengeful rage and mournful grief, she drowned her children and herself in the river. With the cruel act of killing her two innocent children, she was refused entry to Heaven until she can find the soul of her children. The judgment had befallen onto her and with the burden of it on her heart, she wandered the street of the earth, singing the mourful song, kidnapping innocent children and drowning them into the same river she had drowned herself and her children in.

A un santo Cristo de fierro, Llorona,
Mis penas le conté yo,
A un santo Cristo de fierro, Llorona,
Mis penas le conté yo,
¿Cuáles no serían mis penas, Llorona,
que el santo Cristo lloró?
¿Cuáles no serían mis penas, Llorona,
que el santo Cristo lloró?

To a holy iron Christ [Crucifix], Llorona,
I told to him my sins.
To a holy iron Christ [Crucifix], Llorona,
I told to him my sins.
Which would not be my sorrows, Llorona,
that the holy Christ wept?
Which would not be my sorrows, Llorona,
that the holy Christ wept?

I wonder if God knows the sadness of the weeping mothers.

I remember once I had read on the news about a mother who, like La Llorona, thrown her child out of the bus window. I wonder if she would also be refused entry to heaven. She who has suffered the pain of giving birth to a child, then going on to suffer the pain of rising him all alone with no help from her husband and her family. She who had to bear the constant cry of the little baby, the confusing world of a new mother. Where would she go for her child’s meal? What would she do when her child is sick and he cannot speak? And what is this little living thing in her hand that keeps on crying, keeps on demanding the things she doesn’t know, keeps on pushing her towards insanity, keeps on living?

What rights does it have in her life?

With that, my La Llorona threw her child out of the bus window. As a statement that she had had enough. That she doesn’t want to hear the wailing of a living thing who cannot speak. That she doesn’t understand a thing he is trying to convey. That she fears the unknown and the confusion of being a mother with no help whatsoever from her husband and his family.

And the child keeps on wailing.

I recently visited my doctor. He was in a good mood, as always. He says the positivity keeps he sane in his line of profession, and I partially understand why. He tells me the story of a pastor in the U.S. who preached to his followers to not fear and not practicing social distancing because God has the power to heal all wounds and ailments.

And as all life’s irony turns out, the pastor tested positive for COVID-19.

My doctor smiled and said, I wonder if God knows pain.

Now I know that his statement would be seemingly irrelevant to the question and the matter at hand regarding La Llorona, but I sometimes wonder the same thing. Especially when I see my mother at night, measuring my breathing, checking my heartbeat, taking my temperature, making sure that I am safe from the hand of death. At that time, I do wonder if God knows pain.

The pain of the weeping mothers, whose children keep on crying, who are powerless against the twist and turn of fate, whose faith cannot protect them against drowning in the lake of sorrow, whose love is like the hollow and pain is like an ocean full of judgmental people.

I think it’s time we take the burden off the shoulders of La Llorona. Let her off the hook. Allow her to step into her Heaven, wherever that is. I believe that to her now, more than ever, her kind of Heaven includes her drowning children.

Not the husband who does not care about her. Not the cruel world who watches her wallow in her sorrow and does nothing to drag her out of the mud. Not the people on the bus who does nothing to comfort the mentally unstable mother. Not the in-law family who was so cruel as to force her to bear a son for their own sake.

No, none of them deserve to be included in her Heaven.

Alas!, Llorona, Llorona,
Llorona, give me your love.
Alas!, Llorona, Llorona,
Llorona, give me your love.
Heaven can wait, Alas, Llorona!,
but my heart cannot.
Heaven can wait, Alas, Llorona!,
but my heart cannot.

Llorona, Llorona, Llorona. She whose love can fill the ocean. She whose beauty induce the jealousy of Venus. She who wander in the night, weeping for her lost children, suffering the pain from knowing that the ones she dearly love are no longer by her side.

She who is the represent of all weeping mothers. Who God refuses to take her by his side. Whose pain God knows nothing of. Who will keep on wandering in the night, across the far sea, the ocean wide, the border of death and the border of the living side.

So here I say, Llorona, my beauty, my weeping mothers, let them off the hook.

In an article about his mother, Trịnh Công Sơn once wrote: Khi một người mồ côi mẹ ở tuổi năm mươi thì điều ấy có nghĩa là cái chỗ trống trên giường mẹ nằm sẽ mãi mãi là một khoảng không hiu quạnh những sáng, trưa, chiều, tối. Bạn sẽ đứng nhìn cái gối mẹ thường nằm mỗi ngày và bật khóc. Bạn ngồi lại bên mép giường của mẹ và hiểu rằng từ đây bạn sẽ không còn được mẹ trách móc một điều gì nữa.

In a rough translation that I took some liberty with my words, the above statements in English would have these meanings:

When a person lost his mother at the age of 50, it means that the empty space on his mother’s bed will forever be a hollow lonely space every morning, afternoon, and evening. You will stand there, watching the pillow your mother used to lie on and cry. You will sit down by the her bed side and understand that from here on out, you can never hear your mother scolding you again, even if it is just a small, little thing.

Just imagine that time. The time you will be an orphan without a mother at the lonely age of 50, where your mother’s bed will forever be an empty, hollow space. You wake up in the morning and come by to visit her, but what you see there is just her empty bed, cover in white. And instead of her figure sitting on the bed side, leaning on the pillow, watching a silly TV show while munching on her lunch, you can only see a pillow laying neatly on the also neatly folded blanket.

And that is a lost that you can never retrieve.

Lynn Crosbie once wrote a marvelous book titled, “Life is About Losing Everything.” There is some truth in that. In some of my psychosis episode, where I see everything as plated with gold, I still agree with that statement.

And losing a mother is just that. Losing a mother is losing everything.

Of course, losing a person that is important to us would always be amounted to losing everything. But losing a mother is different. There will always be objections. And to all the potential objections, which include, but not limited to, not all mothers are good mothers, I am hereby willingly agree.

But I will also standby my statement that losing a mother is an irretrievable lost.

I keep imagine losing my mother at the age of 50. Imagining waking up one morning, having my cup of coffee, walking over to her house, knocking on the door, waiting for a while – 5 to 10 minutes maybe, and thinking that she had, perhaps, overslept, I withdrew my sparekey and opened the front door. Then I walked down the corridor to her room, knocking on it three times, then another three times, then another three times. Then wait 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes, then another 5 minutes.

And the realization floods in. Of course, there will be no one at the gate. Of course she would not be open the door. Of course I have to wait there forever.

Because she is no longer here.

And how devastating will that make me. How broken will that make me. How desolate will that make me.

I often joke with my group of friends, You would know immediately who still have a mother waiting for them at home and who doesn’t. They would laugh at it and say that I am making things up as usual. Of course, how could you tell from the facade, the outer appearance, the clean and freshly iron clothes they wear, the nicely done tie, the shiny shoes or the neatly fold skirt on single men and women? You will never know.

But there will always be this sparkle about them. And if you have read my blog and my series Stories on the Street, you will know what I am referring to.

Yes, yes, it is. There will always be the sparkle of a mother’s love.

To conclude this episode, and to celebrate Mother’s Day, I will read to you Part II of my poetry series dedicated to mothers, A Rose for My Mother:

I collapse on the floor, with Leonard Cohen on my ears.

I know that some days, I will pay you back

somehow, some ways.

You never ask for a child like me,

and even if you do, I suppose you never ask for someone

ridden with laughters and sadness mingled together

in a basket made of unstable mental state

and self-inflicted wounds.

I saw you ran towards me, your knees weaken with old age and

your left arm without strength and

your white hair falling everywhere and

everything everything.

I can’t help but thinking to myself, Why you?

Why must Heaven, if there is one, be so cruel to you?

Why must I be so cruel to you?

I collapse on the floor, half sane, half insane,

Eminem blasting on my brain,

and I know that I will pay you back,

somehow, some days.

But your knees keep growing weaker and

your arms keep growing thinner and

your hair keeps growing whiter and Mother,

I can’t win against time.

Despite my fervent wishing,

my ardent praying,

and anything that anyone else would do

just for God to listen,

I can never be who you want me to be.

I collapse on the floor, tears streaming down my face,

and The National is still on.

I guess all this time I never know

that whenever I turn around,

you will always be there.

Sad and broken and weaken by the cruel passage of time,

but you will always be there.

And you know what I fear most, Mother?

That one of these days, when I finally can pay you back,

somehow, some ways,

when I can finally proudly turn around:

and you are no longer there.

And Trịnh Công Sơn? Yes, he did write songs about his mother, as well as about all the weeping mothers in the world. But as he put in into words, there will be no song good enough to talk about mothers. But for the pleasure of my dearest audience, here is a rough translation of his song, The Legend of Motherhood, or Huyền Thoại Mẹ:

Mẹ là gió uốn quanh,
Trên đời con thầm lặng
Trong câu hát thanh bình.
Mẹ làm gió mong manh.
Mẹ là nước chứa chan,
Trôi giùm con phiền muộn
Cho đời mãi trong lành
Mẹ chìm dưới gian nan.

Mother is the winding wind,

Silently blowing on my life

In the peaceful songs I sing.

Mother is the fragile wind,

And the river filled with magic water,

Washes away my sadness and sorrowful life,

And for it to turn into smiles,

Mother sacrifice and lay under the blade of life.

And that, my dearest audience, will be the ending of this week’s episode in appreciation of my mother, your mother, and all the mothers in the world, who is struggling to protect their children in these chaotic time. Whether you are still under the wing of your mom, or an orphan who lost her mother at the age of 50, as always, I hope you can find refuge the words, the songs, the verses, and the books within this podcast.

If you think my podcast deserve a little bit more than a praise, I would be honored to receive a small donation on my Patreon account, which is linked in the podcast description. Your donation, no matter how small, will help me tremendously in finding out new resources and research for the content of the podcast. You can follow me on my Instagram at bipolar_psyche. For more of my works – novels, short stories, letters, and poems, you can find them all at tasteofsmallthings.com. And if you want a listening ear, I am always available at the email address in the podcast description.

This is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.

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