Poem for the Day: September 23rd, 2021

My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014 by Wu Sheng and John Balcom (Translator)

American Citizenship by Wu Sheng and John Balcom (Translator)

Out here in the sticks
You rarely encounter such genius:
"Come, come, come to Taiwan U
Go, go, go to the US"
Words passed with envy from mouth to mouth
Giving the hometown high hopes

Then I heard you've become an American citizen
You're very busy
With house payments
Credit cards
You rarely have time to write home
You must know unspeakable hardship
At home, mother
Is busy as always
Covering our tuition
Doing never-ending farm work
season after season
For you to study abroad and
Leave the family in debt

You ought to remember
at the end of the year you left
Father, who struggled all his life
In wind and rain, in sorching sun and bitter cold
Died in a car accident
Leaving all life's difficulties
To mother, who can't even read
For more than ten years,
From morning till night
Our illiterate mother
Has had so much
She wanted me to write and tell you
—how she worried about you

And I ought to tell you
Every time there's a wedding in the village
Mother insists
I write your name
In the register
Because you are the eldest son
Our older brother

You left your backward hometown
More than ten years ago
To become an American citizen
In every airmail letter home
You express your disappointment and anger
At your unsuccessful brothers and sisters

Yes, we've all disappointed you
You're ashamed of us
Like this small plot of land
This stupid plot of land
Which provides you no sense of pride or glory
Because we are unwilling to study
Those proud ABCs
We're only willing to work, struggle and sweat in silence
In our homeland
I heard you've become an American citizen
You're very busy
You must have suffered great hardship
I don't know if you miss mother
The way she misses you
She's growing older thinking about you
Do you ever think about
The potatoes we ate as kids?
They were cheap and tasty
I don't know why
You are so busy in that foreign land
And for whom

1978

My Village: Selected Poems 1972-2014 was released in 2020 by Zephyr Press and is now available to order wherever books are sold.

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