Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poem: "Attribution"

Attribution

I speak with the forked tongue of colony.
--Eavan Boland, “The Mother Tongue”

My grandfather said life was better under the British.
He was a man who begrudged his words but he did say this.

I was born after the British left.
They left an alphabet book in my house, the same one they left at school.

I was good in English.
I was the only one in class who knew “bedridden” does not mean lazy.

I was so good in English they sent me to England
where I proved my grandfather right

until I was almost sent down for plagiarism I knew was wrong
and did not know was wrong, since where I came from everyone plagiarized.

I learned to attribute everything I wrote.
It is not easy.

Sometimes I cannot find out who first wrote the words I wrote.
Sometimes I think I wrote the words I wrote with such delight.

Often the words I write have confusing origins
and none can tell what belongs to the British, my grandfather or me.

*

4 comments:

Sinthalunda said...

This is an interesting new direction, Jee. I don't know about the Eavan quotations. I think they suggest a constant derivation, which undercuts the originality of the poems...you do seem a bit obsessed with this idea :-)

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Lloyd,
Thanks for leaving a comment. I am working on my next next book, the first part of which responds to women poets who attract and challenge me. I see the quotations as part of the conversation I am having with them. Like many conversationalists, I have the last word of course.

tammyholaiming said...

I really like this poem and find many resonances.

"Sometimes I cannot find out who first wrote the words I wrote.
Sometimes I think I wrote the words I wrote with such delight."

Jee Leong Koh said...

Dear Tammy,
I'm glad the poem resonates for you.