“Yes” by Denise Duhamel | Women’s voices for change Women


According to Culture shock:
A guide to customs and etiquette
from Filipinos, if my husband says yes
it could also mean one of the following:
a.) I don’t know.
b.) If you say so.
c.) If you like it.
d.) I hope I didn’t say yes enthusiastically enough
so you know I mean no
You can imagine the confusion
all about our film data, the laundry,
who will take out the garbage
and when. I remember him
I’m an American, all of his yeses sound the same to me.
I tell him here in America we have shrinking
who can help him to be less of a people lover.
We have two year olds who like to shout “No!”
if they don’t prevail. I tell him
in America we have a popular book,
If I say no, I feel guilty.
“Should I get you a copy?” I ask.
He says yes, but I think he means
“If you like it,” H. “I won’t read it.”
“I’m trying,” I tell him, “but you have to try too.”
“Yes,” he says, and then does it Tampo,
a pout that the book culture shock describes as
“Subliminal hostility. . . Withdrawal of the usual cheerfulness
in the presence of the one who displeased him.
The book says it’s up to me to fix things.
“To restore goodwill, not by saying the problem,
but by showing concern about the wounded person
Well-being. “Forget it, I think, although I know it
when i’m not nice Tampo can escalate quickly nagdadabog– –
Stomp, grumble, pop
of doors. Instead of talking to my husband, I storm away
to speak to my china Kwan Yin
the Chinese goddess of mercy
I bought it years ago on Canal Street
My husband and I started dating.
“The real Kwan Yin is in Manila”
he tells me “Her name is Nuestra SeƱora de Guia.
Its Asian features prove Christianity
was in the Philippines before the Spaniards arrived. “

From The stars and stripes (Southern Illinois University Press 1999). Reprint in Queen for a day: new and selected poems (Pitt Poetry Series 2001), can be ordered Here.

Denise DuhamelThe most recent volume of poetry is Scald (Pitt Poetry Series 2017), can be ordered Hereand you can see and hear her reading her poems Here. Blow out (Pitt Poetry Series 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other titles from the Pitt Poetry Series are Ka-ching! (2009), Two and two (2005) and Queen for a day: selected and new poems (2001). There are two previous books The stars and stripes (Southern Illinois University Press 1999) and Dirty (Orhisis 1997).

Duhamel was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He graduated from Emerson College and received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lived in New York City from 1985 to 1999. Referring to Dylan Thomas and Kathleen Spivack as early influences, Duhamel wrote poems both in free verse and in fixed form. She has received numerous grants and awards, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a guest editor at The best American poetry2013. She teaches creative writing and literature at Florida International University, where she is a Distinguished University Professor in the MFA program and lives in Hollywood, Florida. [Bio augmented with information from the Poetry Foundation website]

Poet’s note

Although this love poem on the surface is about two people with different cultural backgrounds, I see as I reread it now that it is also about communication in every kind of marriage. The speaker in this poem reads Culture shock: A guide to Filipino customs and etiquette although she could read just as well The new rules of marriage: what you need to know for love to work. “Yes” is a poem of trying, an ode to love – the object of affection a riddle to be solved and appreciated. The spokeswoman in “Yes” wants to know everything about her lover to understand him, beyond what he can tell her at all. The end is this slippery place of doubt that seems to be part of so many marriages.

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