Text of the Poem
Forgive me for thinking I saw the irregular postage stamp of death; a black moth the size of my left thumbnail is all I’ve trapped in the damask. There is no need for alarm. And 5 there is no need for sadness, if the rain at the window now reminds you of nothing; not even of that parlor, long like a nave, where cloud-shadow, wing-shadow, where father-shadow 10 continually confused the light. In flight, leaf-throng and, later, soldiers and flags deepened those windows to submarine. But you don’t remember, I know, so I won’t mention that house where Chung hid, 15 Lin wizened, you languished, and Ming— Ming hush-hushed us with small song. And since you don’t recall the missionary bells chiming the hour, or those words whose sounds alone exhaust the heart—garden, 20 heaven, amen—I’ll mention none of it. After all, it was just our life, merely years in a book of years. It was 1960, and we stood with the other families on a crowded 25 railroad platform. The trains came, then the rains, and then we got separated. And in the interval between familiar faces, events occurred, which one of us faithfully pencilled 30 in a day-book bound by a rubber band. But birds, as you say, fly forward. So I won’t show you letters and the shawl I’ve so meaninglessly preserved. And I won’t hum along, if you don’t, when 35 our mothers sing Nights in Shanghai. I won’t, each Spring, each time I smell lilac, recall my mother, patiently stitching money inside my coat lining, if you don’t remember your mother 40 preparing for your own escape. After all, it was only our life, our life and its forgetting.