Monday, April 09, 2012

Poem: "Recognition"


a duck that would not lay / and a runt of a papaya tree

     Tzu Pheng Lee, “My Country and My People”

Did you grow a bean plant
as a school science project,
noting carefully in a jotter
book the stages of growth
that a dark-green textbook
taught? They did not say,
the books, what to do with
a full-grown bean plant,
and so I reluctantly threw
it down the rubbish chute,
feeling bad at the thought
of leaves squelched with
gum, hair, chicken bones,
the slender white stalk
bent. Did you dig a hole
in the schoolyard secretly
and plant an orange pip,
then watch the soil keep
quiet? Did you keep chicks
(all the children did) as if
you were back in a village?
After accidentally stepping
on one to death, did you
give away the other chick
because someone told you
that it would die if it were
alone? Did you hear that,
or did you, my Country-
woman, hear another say,
no one dies of loneliness?
Or did you hear both voices
sometimes in competition,
like hawkers in a pasar
malam, sometimes in
counterpoint, when you
signed the divorce papers,
when the Senior Minister
in an interview regretted
sending women to school,
when you lectured on the
Romantics, remembering
the bean plant cast away
in its plastic jelly mould,
when your son shifted on
your hips, when you wrote,
the home air-conditioning
raising goosebumps, a poem?

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