Poetry: “Heritage PoemTM” by Grace Song


Throw your stinky lunch box overboard.
Where are your standards? Only adolescent

fruits, ripe with angst, and vaguely identified fish
scaled and steamed are acceptable in a Heritage Poem™

Look at the new H-Mart catalogue: tangerines
and peaches, white jasmine rice, pork-stuffed baozis,

and fifteen-grain congee. If you faint around blood,
thankfully, you are a poet and not a surgeon.

Blood appears in controlled, concentrated images.
No one should be dead, though someone can get hurt,

not physically, just emotionally. If you use characters
instead of letters, everyone will go crazy.

You can choose which you prefer
because italicizing your language makes it different

very exotic, but eventually, the discomfort drops
its attitude and becomes complacency instead.

When the time comes for you to portray your family,
package them with a few more problems.

Only women appear in the Heritage Poem™,
and the mother is the most important.

Aunties, from oldest to youngest,
are ranked two to nine. Save the grandma
for special occasions, like a fancy dress.

Don’t forget to ask important questions:

Who ate the jade rabbit?

Is it okay to create an extended piano metaphor?

Please write the Heritage Poem™
in first person where you yearn for land
across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Yearn for ancestors who don’t want to be woken up
by your tumor of emotions, the size of an identity crisis.

Yearn so hard, you want a tongue.

(The previous one quit because
the syllables became overwhelming.)

Follow this tragedy with a wonton soup of adjectives
because no one wants to hear anything else. Especially

not stupid things like, “I am as happy as a scrubbed toilet”
or “My cat obliterated the curtains
and ran away with my fortune.”

After all, they want real life!

They want it bright and beaten, choked in rope,
cold and raw from H-Mart. Give them a myth.
Or a moon. Better yet, a poem disguised as a meal.
A poem so shiny, no one will guess it’s from the 99¢ store.

About Grace Song

Grace Song Headshot photo

Grace Q. Song is a Chinese-American writer residing in New York City. Her poetry and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, PANK, Waxwing, The Offing, The Journal, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She attends Columbia University.