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Mrs. McKeown's Poetry
Asian American Poet

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I Ask My Mother To Sing

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Introduction:
This poem should be used with older audiences. Why do you think the poem ends the way it does?

She begins, and my grandmother joins her.
Mother and daughter sing like young girls.
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.

I've never been to Peking, or the Summer Palace,
nor stood on the great Stone Boat to watch
the rain begin on Kuen Ming Lake, the picnickers
running away in the grass.

But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.

Both women have begun to cry.
But neither stops her song.

-- Li-Young Lee --

From Celebrate America in Poetry and Art, published by the Smithsonian Institution, 1994.

Extension:
Have the students search out other poems written about a persons heritage. Make a class anthology on the kaleidoscope of nationalities that make up America.