For A New Citizen Of These United States
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.
Li-Young Lee's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (For A New Citizen Of These United States by Li-Young Lee )
- No More Yelling, Michael McParland
- The Wilderness We Abandon, Robert Rorabeck
- Best Lesson, sallam yassin
- Our Heavenly Souls, Robert Rorabeck
- Nightmares and Daydreams, Shane V. Hill
- Within My Mind Holds Dreams, Lilly Emery
- The Right Question, David Barz
- Confusing, george albot
- Bluegray, Saiom Shriver
- My Still Daughter, LoKis White
Poem of the Day
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- As I Grew Older, Langston Hughes
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)