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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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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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