Lena Sze

The Immigrant

I haven't written a poem the last few years.
My writing stopped when father died.
Grief welled up, took up that space.

To be honest, I was busy in the space
Between work and family, year by year.
The city lost its noise and heat, also died.

He came in the 60s, a chinaman living his years
Through work, family. He saw beauty here, dying
Where he dreamed and took up space.

A pinwheel spins. This year of dying things.
A body caves, its space collapsing.

 November overheard/ inside 

I'm pretending to be dead inside and out.
Mr. Feig in wartime Shanghai:
                                                             Scared but alive.

Or hummingbird, my friend, in the mists near Cuenca,
drilling through until finally—

I woke up November 9th to the fact of it,
and the telling of it like a fairy tale.  Later I cried. 
My babies, beautiful, brown, eyes the color of ancient 
lakes somewhere between the Alps and Phrygia. 
I held them.  Terror can gnaw.  

We look at a subway map.  I never noticed Nero
Avenue before.  A triumphal march undoing
something that should always be marked with an X. 
A treasure, an aspiration.

My father hated NAFTA, taxes.  Liked big gruff talk. 
Loved New York.  But he moved at the end of his life
with a gentle gait, a radiance in his face.  He just strived
and strived for us and at the end, there was no meanness left.  

I looked up Tule Lake the other day. 
We imagined the rash of blackberries in the garden
to be Great Salt Lake.  And Tule Lake?  

I'm pretending to be alive inside and out.
But where do our bodies go when we breathe?

Thirty-six views from the mountain

When you were born, your grandfather was still alive. 
We listened to Mahalia Jackson that Christmas.  You,
skinny, all squirming limbs and watchful eyes.  

He watches us, you know.  Sees us from above. 
His smile fanning a thousand wrinkles across the sea.

He watches America and the great burning rage at the heart of it. 
He came when it was white hot but it simmered and seethed,
erupted periodically, a grating between the earth's plates.  He sees.  

I often dream of Aeneas bearing his father's weight on his back. 
I was born a Trojan prince, believing in perseverance and piety, family. 
Didn't you know, silly boy?  Believing in the greatness of my city. 
We can imagine ourselves to be anyone.  In this instance,
           we stay the course because it is our lives.  Our lives.

back to contents