Monday, June 27, 2005

George Uba's "Unrequited Love: An Essay on Identity, or What Went Wrong, Suzy Wong?"

Unrequited Love: An Essay on Identity,
or What Went Wrong, Suzy Wong?

What can I wear to please you at last?
An epicanthic fold across a staged reaction,

or something small as a crease in my self-esteem,
abetted by surgery & American TV?

Shall an imperial flag bind my feet?
The slave takes mincing, mincing steps.

To the harbor she goes, dutiful beggar
to the rich man who owns the past.

What can be done to make you stay?
If I satisfy this thirst of the senses

for the rosemary touch, scent, persimmon mouth,
agile hips, the play of mysterious words in the dark,

will you honor my every request?
If I bring you books, provocative hours

of thought, feelings disguised as maxims
from the Orient, will you unveil your secrets?

Dear one, let us read from an authentic text,
let us mingle our sacred breaths.

My whole life I have loved without possessing you,
spectre, elusive ghost, changeling, my torment--

even now I feel the subtle churnings of the heart.
Intemperately, the turnings of the tide.


Note from George Uba: "[This poem] is a satirical take (written in persona) on the medical procedure of creating an extra epicanthic fold around the eye, which some Asian Americans still undertake in order to look more Western. It's from my book Disorient Ballroom, published in 2004 by Turning Point Books in Cincinnati. The book itself, fyi, builds off of traditions of lyric and narrative poetry in English--but from a postcolonial perspective. I examine Asian American history and myth, family conflict and personal loss, and ultimately the surprises inherent in the colonially marked yet strangely liberating activity of international ballroom dancing. It is fairly lengthy for a book of poetry--136 pages--and sells for $16. It can be ordered online from"



I currently serve as Professor and Chair of the Department of English at California State University, Northridge. My critical work on Asian American poetry includes the principal essay on "Asian American Poetry," as well as individual entries on David Mura and Garrett Hongo, for the forthcoming, five-volume The Encyclopedia of American Poetry (Greenwood Press). Also, the critical essay on Jessica Hagedorn for Asian American Poets: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (2002). Also, "Coordinates of Asian American Poetry: A Survey of the History and a Guide to Teaching" in MLA's A Resource Guide to Asian American Literature (2001); and a variety of other critical pieces relating to Asian American poetry and poets dating back to 1985. My poetry has appeared in the following (partial list): Verse Daily; Ploughshares; The Southern Poetry Review; Carolina Quarterly; Two Rivers Review; The Asian Pacific American Journal; Asian America: A Journal of Culture and the Arts; Quarry West; The Seattle Review; The Journal of Ethnic Studies; The Jacaranda Review; and Breaking Silence.


Blogger Pris said...

This is an amazingly beautiful and graceful poem. It gives a message without making the 'message' the poem.

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Blogger Roger Pao said...

Thanks for the post, Pris! Hope you come back to read more...

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