My Father’s Family Tree

by Anna Yin
Pen Shells
Second Place, November 2008
Judged by Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald


It all started from an ink spot,
my father took it as a sprouting bud.
Sucking on his smoking pipe,
he drew his long narrative
on a piece of paper.
I can sense his smile,
as leaves spread their dense fragrance:
always his favorite,
now highlighted by a brush –
son: a high-ranking officer,
daughter: a respectable scholar,
(my father decorated each with details
like my mother’s Christmas tree)
then me, the would-be poet.
My father has never known poets,
and, to him, “would-be” worse than the rough bark.
(I can feel his pause)
then, a tinted soft orb beside me:
“engineer abroad” perfectly mirrored.
My father ensured his final touch
to free me from starving.
I roll up this glowing paper,
and place its warmth on my chest –
Someday at harvest,
out from the chrysalis of my heart,
I shall start a new scroll.


This poem also tells a great story, unique, yet universal. The piece is sure-handed, and captivates the reader from beginning to end. Both this poem and the first have a strong beginning and a strong end. --Hélène Cardona and John Fitzgerald

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