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For A New Citizen Of These United States Analysis

Author: poem of Li-Young Lee Type: poem Views: 10

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Forgive me for thinking I saw

the irregular postage stamp of death;

a black moth the size of my left

thumbnail is all I've trapped in the damask.

There is no need for alarm.  And

there is no need for sadness, if

the rain at the window now reminds you

of nothing; not even of that

parlor, long like a nave, where cloud-shadow,

wing-shadow, where father-shadow

continually confused the light.  In flight,

leaf-throng and, later, soldiers and

flags deepened those windows to submarine.

But you don't remember, I know,

so I won't mention that house where Chung hid,

Lin wizened, you languished, and Ming-

Ming hush-hushed us with small song.  And since you

don't recall the missionary

bells chiming the hour, or those words whose sounds

alone exhaust the heart--garden,

heaven, amen
--I'll mention none of it.

After all, it was just our life,

merely years in a book of years.  It was

1960, and we stood with

the other families on a crowded

railroad platform.  The trains came, then

the rains, and then we got separated.

And in the interval between

familiar faces, events occurred, which

one of us faithfully pencilled

in a day-book bound by a rubber band.

But birds, as you say, fly forward.

So I won't show you letters and the shawl

I've so meaninglessly preserved.

And I won't hum along, if you don't, when

our mothers sing Nights in Shanghai.

I won't, each Spring, each time I smell lilac,

recall my mother, patiently

stitching money inside my coat lining,

if you don't remember your mother

preparing for your own escape.

After all, it was only our

life, our life and its forgetting.


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