by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa
I am only beginning to understand how seasons affect me.
Winter. Snow beating street people into obedience. How mothers
held back from stepping out in discreetly ornamented shoes and
thin nylon socks.
This is the way I count years: the winters we had ﬁre and the
summers we erased because we were in another place.
I am told I was ﬁve in 1971 even though my birth certiﬁcate states
I was born in 1969. The elders count on their ﬁngers. They have
done it for a long time.
It was winter but not the kind of winter they were born into.
They were wearing hand knitted woolen sweaters. I was wearing
a jacket that children born to refugees wear.
When I am with them, I cannot say I remember. I say, as I am told
It is not the accuracy of the story that concerns us.
But who gets to tell it.
“As Remembered,” from Rules of the House. Copyright © 2002 by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa / Apogee Press.
Tsering Wangmo Dhompa was raised in India and Nepal. She received her MA from University of Massachussetts and her MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her first book of poems, Rules of the House, published by Apogee Press in 2002 was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards in 2003. Other publications include In the Absent Everyday as well as two chapbooks, In Writing the Names (A.bacus, Potes & Poets Press) and Recurring Gestures (Tangram Press). Tsering works for a San Francisco based non-profit foundation that provides humanitarian aid to people of the Himalayas. (Annotated biography of Tsering Wangmo Dhompa courtesy of Apogee Press, with edits.)
Editor’s Note: This selection by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa seemed an appropriate choice for the holiday and for the season. Encompassing such themes as family, storytelling, and what one thinks of when they think of seasons, Dhompa’s work lulls us with simple language while bringing us into a larger world context and deep within the poet’s personal experience. When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of my grandparents, who always had guests for Thanksgiving dinner. Their guests would include foreigners, elderly people without family of their own, and anyone who would otherwise be without the warm experience of Thanksgiving. This piece brings to mind for me the experience of being a foreigner, a refugee, of being without. Dhompa and her family are exactly the kind of guests one might have expected to find at my grandparents’ Thanksgiving table. Today I am thankful to Dhompa for making me remember my grandparents’ kindness, and for encompassing their giving spirit both in her writing and in her humanitarian work. Tsering Wangmo Dhompa- a poet who embodies living and writing as it ought to be.
Want to read more by and about Tsering Wangmo Dhompa?
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