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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


by Ching-In Chen

My father calls to make
sure I'm ok, his voice
an awkward
star in the constellation of dark
miles between us. In our
patchwork family, he is the
one kneeling in the corner,
examining these strips
which used to hold
together, as if tight knots would
never come undone. He
an observer while my mother
opened herself for the feeding.
My father the immigrant
wants me to take caution
in a country where he has learned
how to be lonely.
Out of his mouth swims a name from the Asian
American textbook of my past –
Vincent Chin.
Do you know the man mistaken,
beaten to death?
Yes, I say.
But these are stark lessons he has never
taught me –
his own jobs not won,
which dreams he has left.
We never speak of these things.
he is singing a lament
for those families without second chances,
for men who sit in the darkness
with no one living in their hearts,
for a country he once believed could be
his own,
before all this.

A Kundiman fellow, Ching-In Chen is the daughter of Chinese immigrants as well as a poet and community organizer. Her writing has been published in Growing Up Girl: Voices from Marginalized Spaces and is forthcoming in Tea Party and CRATE. You can find her at