I am so excited to join Poetry Friday today for two wonderful reasons. First, our featured poem fits perfectly with our bimonthly theme, Festival of Asian Literature and The Immigrant Experience, written by a poet who is an immigrant himself. Second, the roundup post for Poetry Friday today is hosted by the fabulous Linda from TeacherDance. Now on to the show…
Most of my posts are born out of random searches. Some I’ve heard of, most I haven’t. This is especially true for my poetry contributions to Poetry Friday. I discovered Li-Young Lee‘s Immigrant Blues through the Poetry Foundation. According to the poet’s bio, Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested and held as a political prisoner for a year. After his release, the Lee family fled through Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, arriving in the United States in 1964.
Li-Young LeePeople have been trying to kill me since I was born,a man tells his son, trying to explainthe wisdom of learning a second tongue.
It’s an old story from the previous centuryabout my father and me.
The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.It’s called “Survival Strategiesand the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation.”
It’s called “Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,”
called “The Child Who’d Rather Play than Study.”
Practice until you feelthe language inside you, says the man.
But what does he know about inside and outside,my father who was spared nothingin spite of the languages he used?
And me, confused about the flesh and the soul,who asked once into a telephone,Am I inside you?
You’re always inside me, a woman answered,at peace with the body’s finitude,at peace with the soul’s disregardof space and time.
Am I inside you? I asked oncelying between her legs, confusedabout the body and the heart.
If you don’t believe you’re inside me, you’re not,she answered, at peace with the body’s greed,at peace with the heart’s bewilderment.
It’s an ancient story from yesterday evening
called “Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,”
called “Loss of the Homeplaceand the Defilement of the Beloved,”
called “I want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs.”