This is a great poem for looking at and thinking about assimilation, expectation, and identity. I began to understand the poem when I explored and found out that peaches originally come from China. Not Georgia or Alabama!
I also wanted a poem that used the page differently. Here is what the poet says about it:
Marilyn Chin: I like using the page as a “compositional field,” where I could set up a poem as either an internal argument or an argument with the other.
I couldn’t get the right look for the poem on the wordpress page. Here’s a link to how the poem should look: http://archivio.el-ghibli.org/index.php%3Fid=1&issue=08_33§ion=3&index_pos=1&inlingua=t.html
That Half is Almost Gone Marilyn Chin
That half is almost gone,
the Chinese half,
the fair side of a peach,
darkened by the knife of time,
fades like a cruel sun.
In my thirtieth year
I wrote a letter to my mother.
I had forgotten the character
for “love.” I remember vaguely
the radical “heart.”
The ancestors won’t fail to remind you
the vital and vestigial organs
where the emotions come from.
But the rest is fading.
A slash dissects in midair,
more of a cry than a sigh
(and no help from the phoneticist).
You are a Chinese!
My mother was adamant.
You are a Chinese?
My mother less convinced.
Are you not Chinese?
My mother now accepting.
As a cataract clouds her vision,
and her third daughter marries
a Protestant West Virginian
who is “very handsome and very kind.”
The mystery is still unsolved –
the landscape looms
over man. And the gaffer-hatted fishmonger –
sings to his cormorant.
And the maiden behind the curtain
is somebody’s courtesan.
Or, merely Rose Wong’s aging daughter
pondering the blue void.
You are a Chinese – said my mother
who once walked the fields of her dead –
Today, on the 36th anniversary of my birth,
I have problems now
even with the salutation.