‘Persimmons’ by Inez Tan

A friend of mine who was there when it happened
told me that everyone was dancing on the last night
when the Chinese poet they all admired so much
put on “Fight the Power,” then
stood there and cried while
everyone else kept dancing. Like a child
at his own bad birthday party, I thought
glibly, all through the years
I said I didn’t think his poems were that good
without really reading them, disgusted and unnerved
by their testament to the brutal hegemonies
laying claim to the heart’s holy ground of love.
The awful translations and misnamings, like
Chinese apple, that luminous, thick-skinned
fruit which grows everywhere now. The humiliations
of a transplanted child who couldn’t – then – master
the common language. And the hard hands
and stinging tongues of tall adults I had also known,
on the other side of the world, as far away as possible
and no distance at all from such tears.


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