, May 29, 2022

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Momotaro in the Philippines


  •   2 min reads
Momotaro in the Philippines
BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons.

Intro by Kwame Dawes

Mar­i­anne Chan, in her rid­dle of a poem, ​“Momo­taro in the Philip­pines”, reminds us of how the world con­tracts by migra­tion, by com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy, and by trade, and how every cul­ture finds a way to make sense of the cul­tures that some­how find their way into their worlds. Momo­taro is best known as the boy hero birthed from the seed of a peach in Japan­ese folk­lore. For Fil­ipino-Amer­i­can poet, Chan, peach­es evoke ali­en­ness: Europe, cans, boy-heroes, Japan, and Amer­i­ca — peach­es are part of the glob­al world of trade. Her ​“peach girl” becomes a counter-hero. She is not ​“a war­rior, no hero”. She loves and she stingi­ly con­sumes deli­cious peach­es for her sur­vival. I find her defi­ant self-aware­ness strange­ly comforting.


By Marianne Chan

Here, peaches come from boxes
that smell like Europe, from cans
made of a tin-coated steel.
I lie with the peaches soaking in
saccharine darkness until freed.
I don't recognize the children
who run toward me. Their faces
like the feathers on the feet
of birds. Their slippers repeating that
melancholic drone. “Wake up,” they say.
“Wake up.” And as I rise from
the dreamy fluid-oh, the America,
which preserves me -I press
my sticky forehead on your sun­-
freckled hand. I love you, am sorry,
am not a warrior, no hero. I
fight for nothing, am stingy. I ate
all the peaches from the can
from the box from which I came.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Marianne Chan, “Momotaro in the Philippines” from All Heathens (Sarabande Books, 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.


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