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"His Parents' Baggage," by Marylin Chin

  • When we first met he had nothing,
  • naked as a brand-new lamb.
  • Fresh dew shimmered on the wool of his back.
  • Then, slowly, my small apartment filled
  • with meaningful gimcrack of his past.
  • And then, his parents’ baggage...
  • First, his mother’s small leathers:
  • prim, expensive, with a good name,
  • filled to the brim, ready to explode.
  • Took three friends to sit them closed.
  • Then his father’s soft naugahyde:
  • one special piece, a suit-bag hung
  • over the doorjamb like a fresh carcass
  • picked open by private vultures.
  • And he and his sisters were the last
  • worms to clean the ribs.
  • I beg the question: who is host, who is guest?
  • Who the eater, who the eaten?
  • And in the depth of night,
  • in the wake of our dreams,
  • I reach out my arms to embrace what is left.


Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She has received many awards for her poetry, including a National Endowment Fellowship and a Stegner fellowship from Stanford University. Her novel,
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, was published by Norton in 2009. Presently, she is a professor of creative writing at San Diego State University. “His Parents’ Baggage” is from her collection, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty, published by Milkweed editions: Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions 1994, 2009. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions (milkweed.org). The author’s photograph is by Don Romero.

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  • When we first met he had nothing,
  • naked as a brand-new lamb.
  • Fresh dew shimmered on the wool of his back.
  • Then, slowly, my small apartment filled
  • with meaningful gimcrack of his past.
  • And then, his parents’ baggage...
  • First, his mother’s small leathers:
  • prim, expensive, with a good name,
  • filled to the brim, ready to explode.
  • Took three friends to sit them closed.
  • Then his father’s soft naugahyde:
  • one special piece, a suit-bag hung
  • over the doorjamb like a fresh carcass
  • picked open by private vultures.
  • And he and his sisters were the last
  • worms to clean the ribs.
  • I beg the question: who is host, who is guest?
  • Who the eater, who the eaten?
  • And in the depth of night,
  • in the wake of our dreams,
  • I reach out my arms to embrace what is left.


Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She has received many awards for her poetry, including a National Endowment Fellowship and a Stegner fellowship from Stanford University. Her novel,
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, was published by Norton in 2009. Presently, she is a professor of creative writing at San Diego State University. “His Parents’ Baggage” is from her collection, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty, published by Milkweed editions: Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions 1994, 2009. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions (milkweed.org). The author’s photograph is by Don Romero.

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