Excerpts > Winter 2004
Adrienne Su


From the beginning, they learned not to feel any.
They’re usually good people, praised by neighbors,
Quick to shovel snow from the walkways.
They’re reliably cheerful, even with telemarketers,
And their houses are clean from Monday to Sunday.

But it’s hard to picture them at night, unable to rest,
Sick from the latest on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Name a current war, and they imagine terrorists
And despots, not toddlers who can’t understand
That they mustn’t cry because everything depends on it.

Ambiguity is all they can’t tolerate.
Stories without resolution, abstract portraiture—
Why stir things up for the hell of it?
They’re willing to discuss the new counterculture,
Even read a book you suggest, but as they see it,

The past is over. If they were unloved by their mothers
Or shouted into submission at every stage
Of development, they’re fully recovered.
If others keep having kids they can’t raise
And quitting jobs, it’s from lack of resolve, or bad culture.

They’re glad to explain their position: We overcame, too.
Our parents used to be poor. One of them was violent.
We were brought up on unspoken racism and junk food
But turned out OK and not racist. Hey, we’re resilient.
We triumphed over rocky beginnings. And so can you.

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