Depending on where you go your perspective of yourself, and other people’s perspective of you may shift and change. I know what it is like to travel abroad and be seen as an immigrant. Maybe this is why this poem always seems to speak tome. Because here Chin focuses on the importance of tradition.
The Floral Apron
by Marilyn Chin
The woman wore a floral apron around her
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”
She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as a child’s nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.
Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion
fogged our senses
and we absolved her for that moment’s
Then, she, an elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the Asian plight.
And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
that floral apron.