Escape from the Old Country

I never had to make one,
no sickening weeks by ocean,
no waiting for the aerogrammes
that gradually ceased to come.
Spent the babysitting money
on novels, shoes, and movies,
yet the neighborhood stayed empty.
It had nothing to do with a journey
not undertaken, not with dialect,
nor with a land that waited
to be rediscovered, then rejected.
As acid rain collected
above the suburban hills, I tried
to imagine being nothing, tried
to be able to claim, “I have
no culture,” and be believed.
Yet the land occupies the person
even as the semblance of freedom
invites a kind of recklessness.
Tradition, unobserved, unasked,
hangs on tight; ancestors roam
into reverie, interfering at the most
awkward moments, first flirtations,
in doorways and dressing rooms—
But of course. Here in America,
no one escapes. In the end, each traveler
returns to the town where, everyone
knew, she hadn’t even been born.

Adrienne Su, "Escape from the Old Country" from Sanctuary. Copyright © 2006 by Adrienne Su.  Reprinted by permission of Manic D Press.
Source: Sanctuary (Manic D Press, 2006)
More Poems by Adrienne Su