Twelve Ways of Looking at Time
in spite of Wallace Stevens
among strangers in a new world,
the only comforting thing
is the embrace of your immigrant mother.
you are the first of three daughters,
like this household
in which there will be three immigrant mothers.
your immigrant mother resists the melting point.
she is a drop in the coming wave.
blood, sweat, and tears
blood, sweat, and tears from your immigrant mother
you do not know how to communicate;
the language of her home
or the language of yours,
your immigrant mother’s poetry
or her flashcard idioms.
poignant smells fill the kitchen
with someone else’s memories.
the childhood of your immigrant mother
appears on your dinner table.
traced in the spices
an unrecognizable sadness.
small-minded men of this country
why do you imagine a golden race?
do you not see how the immigrant mother
builds up this nation
with the songs of her children?
you slip into an accent
to meet her English halfway
but you know, too,
that your immigrant mother has a homeland
where she does not have an accent.
when your immigrant mother flew from her country
she widened the universe
of one of many families.
at the sight of immigrant mothers
waiting for green cards
even the immigrants of yesterday
would cry out sharply.
he rode over his green lawn
in a golf cart.
once, a fear pierced him,
in that he thought he mistook
for immigrant mothers.
the tides are turning.
the immigrant mothers must be rising.
Hyunjin Cheo is a queer Korean poet from Vancouver. Their poetry has been published this year by the Academy of American Poets, Rutgers Review, and Rutgers Writers House Review.