Poetry & Writing

sample image

Portsmouth Square, 1966

In the picture, I am nine months old,

tight white

bundle in red booties

carried out for a walk in the park. You are a thin

fortyish woman in cat-eye glasses

and a blue chemise,

young enough to be my mother.

You were the one who woke before dawn

to feed me, and the one who now waits

for me by the window in the evenings.

My mother and I were the packaged deal

you sent for: Hong Kong bride with child on the way,

the marriage that would save

your oldest son from Vietnam.

So, when my mother arrived

in this country, hunch-shouldered

and sway-backed, her five-month pregnancy hidden

under a small beaded sweater, you boiled

angelica root and whole chickens for soup,

and promised to bring her mother and sisters

to America. Later, after she complained

that the constant crying tore at her heart,

you moved me into your room

across the hall, tied me

down to the crib with rope.

In this picture, I did not know

who my mother was. I will not know until

almost three years later, dragging

a blanket from our room,

I see a beautiful woman in floral pajamas,

bending over to light

the furnace in the hallway, her powdered face

glowing from the flame. I will ask you

who the woman is, and you will answer,

she is your mother.

                                                                            Priscilla Lee

Grandma and me in 1966

Grandma and me in 1989