Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I never saw them actually worn:
hollow shells of rigid silk brocade
high-necked, with the diagonal buttons at the left shoulder
intricately printed with cranes, bamboo and old-style ideographs.

The old women wore slacks and short-sleeved blouses
occasional pantsuits, very rarely
skirts or dresses. It's less trouble, they said,
I'm too old for fancy clothes.

They passed the dresses to their daughters and granddaughters
but we could never fit our larger frames
inside these shells.

We cut them down to make vests,
repurposed the fabrics for quilts and fancy pillows.
We cut them up for scraps.
We destroyed the shapes which we could never fit

which our grandmothers discarded after
dodging bombs and crossing oceans, learning a foreign language,
giving up their children to the care of a strange land--

I inherit scraps of silk brocade
and unearned freedom.

-- Tiel Aisha Ansari


Thanks to Tiel Aisha Ansari of Portland, OR for permission to show her poem here today. You can see more of her writings on her blog, Knocking from Inside, which is also the title of her book.

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