That Half is Almost Gone

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:

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.


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