Which are the words that make us
It is the only word I know
In your language. Can you be young
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 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.
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.