Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How Do I Begin?

Once, American poets were born
in the factories of Detroit,
the vineyards of the Great Valley,
the haunted plantations of the South,
but they were all raised on the plains of Iowa.
They wrote about life enclosed
by picket fences, children creating
kingdoms under apple orchards,
tornadoes turning trees into rows of corkscrews
and carrying trout
miles out of rivers.

Now, here I am, adopted citizen,
not rooted in this land, unable to taste
the spirit in its dust,
to sense its moods in the pollen.
How do I begin my song?
Where do I enter the chorus
when my part is not yet written,
when the conductor won’t point
my way?

Shall I start with my birth on Sky Mountain?
Then follow with my childhood,
shaping paper planes to ride the wind?
Or shall I tell of my boyhood,
playing on the shore of the Dragon River
that flowed like a cool blue ribbon
and raged into a yellow monster
during the monsoon season?

Shall I sing of fleeing
my homeland, knowing I was leaving
the mountains and gorges forever.
Should I sing of crossing
the Mekong, floating on a bamboo raft?
Or sing of my coming
to this land, as a beggar,
wishing to share my story,
but unable to speak the language?

If I sing of these things,
who would listen to me
who knows nothing of picket fences,
the sanctuary of apple orchards,
or the lessons of tornadoes?

I will have to relearn
and trust my childhood, give
the wind my song
and let all who can,

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