A Poem by Weihua Zhang.
Are You My Mother?
At the JFK airport you asked,
your innocent face fastened on me.
No longer the toddler I left in China—
now five, you flew half the globe
to join me in the US,
where for the past two years, two months, eleven days, and twelve hours
I had been pursuing a degree (what degree, you asked).
"Are you my mother?"
I left you at daybreak on an icy January day
to catch a plane at the airport a hundred miles away.
I last saw you as your grandma,
fighting back tears,
hurried you into the neighbor’s apartment,
before I could whisper "Goodbye."
Your lovely face blurred behind the shut door.
You knew you had to lure me back
with impressive feats—preschool, kindergarten,
ballet lessons—no matter, you aced all.
Stuck half a world away, I observed
your third, fourth, and fifth birthdays alone
with eyes closed,
hoping to see what colors adorned your cakes.
I held onto a picture of you sitting on the grass,
head tilted toward the sky.
“Is that airplane going to America to get Mom?”
scribbled on the back.
Your innocent words haunted me:
“I miss you, Mom! Please come back soon!”
I longed—no—dreaded to hear from home.
Walking between your dad and me,
you held both our hands, grasping his.
In the car ride that started our life
together in America , you asked me
again, “Are you my mother?”
Locking my misty eyes with yours,
I nodded and bear-hugged you.
I felt your body relax just a little.
Two years, two months, twelve days, and eight hours after we first separated,
we gathered again under the same roof.
Nestled against me, you felt safe to close your eyes.
Would you be dreaming of our reunion?
would the familiar twinkles return to your eyes?
Could we make up for the eight hundred days lost?
Was I the mother you had been looking for?
Copyright by Weihua Zhang, 2006
Wehua Zhang says:
I received a Doctoral degree in Humanistic Studies from SUNY Albany in 1996. Trained as an African American literary scholar, I have been teaching composition and literature classes at Savannah College of Art and Design since 1996. I have published review articles on Asian American and African American literatures/writers; black and white photographs in JCT (Journal of Curriculum Theorizing); featured articles in The Chronicle (my college’s newspaper), and creative nonfiction pieces in People’s Daily, Overseas Edition — China’s leading newspaper.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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