Exile: an invitation to a struggle (A Mother’s Day Tribute)

By Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Reprinted, with author’s permission, from My Rice tastes like the lake

Mother tells me to eat well.
Mother who knows best, asks,
how are you? She has asked this
all of my life. There are only two
answers to this question. Two answers
keep us mother and son,
mother and daughter.

The distance is a question.
The question is also a statement
of a struggle.

If the word is a struggle,
you understand.

We cannot continue as we are.
We cannot forget we are guests
who have overstayed. I invite you
to living against (as we do.)
It is not enough to have one tongue.
It cannot point to everything
and in every direction.

We do not use our mother tongue
for our lovers. Beloved,
we speak your words.
What do we want? Freedom.
When do we want it? Now. Protest
in the mother tongue. Free now
from the notion of continuity.

The present is the utterance;
now is too late.

Flowers plucked for later,
not now, they are dead. Stem,
stamen, piston: I do not ask
if they are perfect.

I am not to blame for the flies
who dive into a cup of tea.

Life after death is a belief.
There is no heaven because
there is no hell.

After rain, a swarm of flies
misbehave like stubborn stubble.
Claimed by multi-legged beings,
hair loosens from its comfort of a braid.

Rain seeps into the animals who lie
still, the wind bored from blowing.
Until sun convinces us to take
our layers off; dismisses the hats
we wear.

We predict the contraction
of bones, of skin stretching to oblige
the dress picked for a summer caper.

It is not possible to remain
free of the suffering of knowing
and of ignorance.

In fifty years, dogs from rival villages
have lost and won their wars. Their heirs walk
with tails between their legs.

We pray for a better life.

The inevitable, here, then gone.
Snow bound ground, snow topped ground, the only
assurance we have
is, it will melt.

Our bodies covered
and uncovered
are not the same.

About the author: Tsering Wangmo Dhompa is the author of three collections of poetry, including “My rice tastes like the lake,” “In the Absent Everyday,” and “Rules of the House (all from Apogee Press, Berkeley).” “My rice tastes like the lake” was a finalist for the Northern California Independent Bookseller’s Book of the Year Award for 2012.  Dhompa’s first non-fiction book, “A Home in Tibet” was published by Penguin, India, in September 2013. She teaches creative writing and is pursuing a PhD degree in Literature at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

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