Ma’am, An American Tragedy




This poem appears in the latest issue of the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 20  Childhood

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Ma’am, An American Tragedy

Ma’am

I know that you are rich
And I am just a poor immigrant
I’ve been selling milk tea on the street
Since I was seven
But my grandmother watches me close
From her banana tree in heaven

Ma’am

I dream of a beautiful white house
Can you buy it for me
Give me the keys to the republic?
That baby grand in the window
Some day, I will play it

Ma’ am

No matter what you think
I am not after your son
I mean, he’s not terribly smart
He’s dyslexic and ridiculous
Can’t hold a day job
And got a D in calculus

Ma’am

You know your son is odd
He skins cats with his scout knife
He carries around a rubber doll
And calls it his wife

Ma’am

He doesn’t love me
Don’t worry about it
We just have fun sex
And listen to rap in the basement
I’ll go away to a good college
And he’ll go to prison

Ma’am

No, he didn’t tell on you
Not really, he didn’t say
Nothing about your uncle
Or your ex-husband
He didn’t tell me much
He just sat there, crying

Ma’am

Did you say, “She’s war trash
She came from the jungle
She’s a weirdo geek, can’t
Look up from her books.
Why do you want her?”

Ma’am

Did you say
“Stay away, she’s schizoid
Down right ugly
Her father owns that rat-infested roach coach
She’ll amount to nothing”

Ma’am

I did not love him, exactly
I did love him too much
It’s that inbetweeness
Of love and hate
That made me stuck

Ma’am

I’m gonna love him and drive him crazy
I’m gonna love him though he’s lazy
I’m gonna wash his feet and wrap his wounds
Take him off the cross and carry him to his tomb
I’m gonna love him till he hates me
I’m gonna love him and drive him crazy

 

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Marilyn Chin is an award-winning poet and author. Her latest book is A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2018). She serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.


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