From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 76, INTERSECTING CIRCLES: The Voices of Hapa Women in Poetry and Prose

Triggers for December:

1. without that small voice creeping in

2. strange to say

3. well it was true

4. what is love?

5. I don’t think I can

6. I feel guilty

7. as American as a family can be

8. so this is where I am

“Chronicle,” by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge

I was born the year of the loon
in a great commotion. My mother — who used to pack $500 cash
in the shoulders of her fur gambling coat,
who had always considered herself
the family’s “First Son”—
took one look at me
and lit out
on a vacation to Sumatra.
Her brother purchased my baby clothes;
I’ve seen them, little clown suits
of silk and color.

Each day
my Chinese grandmother bathed me
with elaboration in an iron tub;
amahs waiting in line
with sterilized water and towels
clucked and smiled
and rushed about the tall stone room
in tiny slippers.

After my grandfather
accustomed himself to this betrayal by First Son,
he would take me in his arms,
walk with me
by the plum trees, cherries, persimmons;
he showed me the stiff robes
of my ancestors and their drafty hall,
the long beards of his learned old friends,
and his crickets.

Grandfather talked to me, taught me.
At two months, my mother tells me,
I could sniff for flowers,
stab my small hand upwards to the moon.
Even today I get proud
When I remember
This all took place in China.


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