Today I searched for a poem on family and relationships and chanced upon this gem. It poses a few interesting questions and makes us think about our close relationships within family and how we tend to take them for granted. The poet is Tina Chang.
“Tina Chang is the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn. The first woman named to this position, she was raised in New York City. She is the author of the poetry collections Half-Lit Houses and Of Gods & Strangers (Four Way Books). Her poems have appeared in American Poet, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, The New York Times among others.
Chang discussed her appointment as Poet Laureate with the New York Times: “The ultimate goal is to break down the wall between people and poetry,” Chang noted. “Somewhere along the way, we have felt intimidated by it, or we have felt we have to be well-educated in order to be able to access it or walk into that world.””
Take a look at her poem here:
Love by Tina Chang
I am haunted by how much our mothers do not know.
How a republic falls because of its backhanded deals,
stairwell secrets. My mother does not know I am lying
with a man who is darker than me, that we do not
have names for how we truly treat our bodies.
What we do with them. The other possesses me.
Without him the perception of me fails to exist.
My mother now is taking her sheers and cutting
through live shrimp. When I was a child she peeled
each flushed grape until only the pale fleshy bead
remained. She placed them onto a plate in one shining
mound, deseeded, in front of me. How I sucked and bled
the fruit of all their juice, hypnotized in front of the buzz
of television in each version of my childhood. I am
her daughter. This is certain. I am lying down with a man
who is darker than me and maybe this poem is my
real republic, my face is my face, or is it stolen from
my mother and hung over mine? If I were a dream
you could say my countenance was a string of flickering lights
made of teeth or an expression unraveling like a carpet
into a narrow river of another life. Does truth matter
when it’s floating face up or face down?
The answer to this makes all the difference.
What the poet expresses here will ring true to many women. How much does a mother really know? What makes a daughter lie to the one person who genuinely cares for her well being (at least in most cases!)? Is an intention sufficient? Will our mothers be able to digest the truth always? Is the truth always palatable? So many questions come to mind as we read these poignant lines. Finally I’d have to agree with Chang that the answer makes all the difference!