Poetry Daily: http://www.poems.com/

Ancestors


We see them as old, but they were thirty once,
thirteen. They're dead, not aged. They seldom

imagined us; we were unknowable, an idea.
One earthquake, one defeat of a dynasty,

and we could be wiped from the future.
They dwelled on the coming of winter,

the drying of grains, salting of meat.
They talked of who would be magistrate,

swept the graves of their grandparents,
raised children to ask careful questions.

Some centuries, they fought off invaders
(human, insect, microbial) but embraced

the concept of heaven for being practical,
a way of eliciting virtue, without being gullible

enough to trade this life for the hereafter.
When it was time to send sons and daughters

across the Pacific, they let them travel and thus
ensured the survival of the people, minus

the land and, later, the language. This is how
I find myself homesteading in small-town

Pennsylvania, thrilled by the announcement,
by paper menu, of a new Chinese restaurant,

despite boilerplate dishes, my inability
to address the owners with fluency,

and my cooking habit. It means the joumey
isn't over. Someone, though outside my family,

whose mother and father still eat from the soil
in which most of my ancestors dwell

(themselves become fruit and flowers),
is trying this place, which feels like nowhere,

which is how the creation myth always begins,
with emptiness waiting to be broken.


Adrienne Su

32 Poems

Summer 2017


To view this poem online, visit the Poetry Daily archive at http://www.poems.com/archive.php