April snowflakes
rearrange hometown memories
in the lineup
I wait for a brand new
permanent resident card


4 Responses

  1. Mojde Says:

    Beautiful!
    Roots are not
    In cards
    But in blood!
    —–
    Resurrection
    Sally Wen Mao

    In the autumn I moved to New York,
    I recognized her face all over the subway
    stations—pearls around her throat, she poses
    for her immigration papers. In 1924, the only
    Americans required to carry identity cards
    were ethnically Chinese—the first photo IDs,
    red targets on the head of every man, woman,
    child, infant, movie star. Like pallbearers,
    they lined up to get their pictures taken: full-face
    view, direct camera gaze, no smiles, ears showing,
    in silver gelatin. A rogue’s gallery of Chinese
    exclusion. The subway poster doesn’t name
    her—though it does mention her ethnicity,
    and the name of the New York Historical
    Society exhibition: Exclusion/Inclusion.
    Soon, when I felt alone in this city, her face
    would peer at me from behind seats, turnstiles,
    heads, and headphones, and I swear she wore
    a smile only I could see. Sometimes my face
    aligned with hers, and we would rush past
    the bewildered lives before us—hers, gone
    the year my mother was born, and mine,
    a belt of ghosts trailing after my scent.
    In the same aboveground train, in the same
    city where slain umbrellas travel across
    the Hudson River, we live and live.
    I’ve left my landline so ghosts can’t dial me
    at midnight with the hunger of hunters
    anymore. I’m so hungry I gnaw at light.
    It tunnels from the shadows, an exhausting
    hope. I know this hunger tormented her too.
    It haunted her through her years in L.A., Paris,
    and New York, the parties she went to, people
    she met—Paul Robeson, Zora Neale Hurston,
    Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein. It haunts
    her expression still, on the 6 train, Grand
    Central station, an echo chamber behind
    her eyes. But dear universe: if I can recognize
    her face under this tunnel of endless shadows
    against the luminance of all that is extinct
    and oncoming, then I am not a stranger here.

  2. janewilliams Says:

    Lovely tanka, very moving, thank you.

    half a century since he left the old country my father's accent still fresh

  3. seaviewwarrenpoint Says:

    Very moving, Chen-ou.

    marion

  4. hoa tang le Says:

    thank you, i like post

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