My mother kept a perfect house
and never wore yellow.
“Most Oriental women can’t,”
she said. “It brings out
the worst in our complexions,”
making us buttercups, bananas,
canaries. The kids made banana
jokes in Chinese-American houses:
we’d been given the wrong complexion.
In my twenties, I received a yellow
cashmere sweater, thrown out
by a blonde friend. “I can’t
wear it anymore — my fat arms can’t,”
she lamented. The cashmere, if banana-
colored, felt as chocolate tasted. Out
of my mother and father’s house,
I tried on the proffered yellow.
Nothing exploded. Complexion
wasn’t destiny; complexion
could be played up. I can’t
say why I felt literary in the yellow
sweater. Maybe not fearing banana
comparisons let me enter the house
of memory without
playing hostess, or brought out
my inner complete person,
who identifies with no house,
eats Twinkies, gets beauty sleep, and can’t
choose cantaloupes or even bananas
well — a one-woman yellow
peril, if a mother. But she faints. Yellow
sits high on my radar. I weed it out
of store racks. I don’t use bananas
as metaphor. I’m all about completion
of assignments. Ambitions grow scant,
collect in spotless corners of the house.
Driven bananas by housework,
I ought to consider the complexities of yellow.
I ought to get out more — but can’t quite.
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