Before my son was born, I had been inside my home often
and, one spring day, sat myself on the astroturf behind a playground
close to my home. I laid back, allowing the plastic grass to prick
my arms and wrists. A few feet away, three girls sang a string
of songs about heartbreak, all the while the lyrics broke
and remade themselves on the edge of each spring leaf. I listened
and I didn’t listen at once which felt like my fullest attention.
The girls were so casual in their beauty, legs entangled in one
another, fingers braiding each other’s teen hair. They seemed
like one animal of burnished light and I tried not to stare.
It was the kind of beauty that held its own attention, needed
no validation, long eyelashes and pale arms gestured toward
wholly bright selves. I closed my eyes hearing their laughter.
I heard, too, from afar someone approaching. I heard a small thud
and a boy’s voice. They talked, they joked, and then a silence
that made me open my eyes. After a longer pause, they asked him
to please leave. I now saw the boy was black and I registered
an expression that was slow rain coming down hard as he grabbed
his backpack swinging it so fiercely, it almost hit one of the girls.
As he walked away, they laughed past him. Their laughter
was the long shadow that followed him for years, their laughter
forced him to round the corner, almost gone from view.
Before he disappeared, he yelled, “Bitch,” but the memory
of him left not a trace. The girls continued to sing except now
there were thorns falling on the imagined grass, some of which
landed close to me. When I sat up, I felt a strong kick inside me.
My boy would be here soon. Six more days into the future
I would meet him. I touched the area that moved. I waited.
Copyright © 2018 by Tina Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“‘Astroturf’ is a poem from my forthcoming collection, Hybrida, a book that examines mixed race through the lens of motherhood. Through the hybrid forms of zuihitsu, prose poems, ekphrastic poems, lists, and lyric essays, the poems envision a childhood of mixed race as one often fraught with danger, collision of selves, and histories. ‘Astroturf’ contemplates the urgent tug between the young man who disappears and the boy about to be born.”
Born in 1969, Tina Chang was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop for her debut collection Half-Lit Houses. She is the poet laureate of Brooklyn.
Date Published: 2018-04-30
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/astroturf