Mama, Come Back
Mama, come back. Why did you leave now that I am learning you? The landlady next door how she apologizes for my rough brown skin to her tenant from Hong Kong as if I were her daughter, as if she were you. How do I say I miss you your scolding your presence your roast loin of pork more succulent, more tender than any hotel chef's? The fur coat you wanted making you look like a polar bear and the mink-trimmed coat I once surprised you on Christmas morning. Mama, how you said "importment" for important, your gold tooth flashing an insecurity you dared not bare, wanting recognition simply as eating noodles and riding in a motor car to the supermarket the movie theater adorned in your gold and jade as if all your jewelry confirmed your identity a Chinese woman in America. How you said "you better" always your last words glazed through your dark eyes following me fast as you could one November evening in New York City how I thought "Hello, Dolly!" showed you an America you never saw. How your fear of being alone kept me dutiful in body resentful in mind. How my fear of being single kept me from moving out. How I begged your forgiveness after that one big fight how I wasn't wrong but needed you to love me as warmly as you hugged strangers.
From Death of a Long Steam Lady by Nellie Wong, published by West End Press. Copyright © 1986 by Nellie Wong. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Nellie Wong was born in Oakland, California, in 1934, and is the author of Stolen Moments (Chicory Blue Press, 1997).
Date Published: 1986-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/mama-come-back