Poet’s Corner: For Maria who asked me to write a poem in which she is young


Which are the words that make us

Young?  Armenia.

It is the only word I know

In your language.  Can you be young

In English?

Say the word suitcase subtracts

Ten years, sends you sky-bound

Over the Black Sea backwards.

Gone, your fear of flying.

Say parasol skims twenty more.

You stroll the shore, a patterned

Shield in hand.  Gone

Your interest in strangers.

Tolstoy, ten years.  Gone

Your penchant for reading.

Turkish Delight (traitorous

Words), nine.  Gone

Your memory of love.

You’re fourteen.

You have never left your village.

You have never dreamed of flight.

You have never read Tolstoy.

You have never spoken any language other than your own.

You have never loved.

You’re young.

Jennifer Tseng has been the Writer-in-Residence at Hampshire College, a Visiting Writer at Colorado College, and has taught Asian American Studies at UCLA. Her book The Man With My Face was winner of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s National Poetry Manuscript Competition and a 2006 PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. Jennifer works at the West Tisbury Library and serves as Poetry Editor for Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas.