The Riddle of Morro Rock


by Jennifer Tseng

It marks the first landing place
Of Filipinos in the American West.
Like many of us, they arrived by boat.
When we (Chinese father, German American mother,
Their children) passed the rock in our car
En route to the Chuck Wagon buffet,
We (their children) always looked.
We didn’t know what the rock was.
We thought it was Nature being
Glamorous. Saying:
Look at the spectacle of me!
Don’t look at the sea,
Look at me! Look. 
I have placed my body before 
The waves like an offering. 
Picnic in the shade of me.
Forget the sea. It is endless as 
My standing, my understanding 
Of myself as shield, as eye pillow.
The past lies behind me.
Here, I will help you 
Not to look at it. 
For the people in the boats,
The rock was a statue of liberty.
A lighthouse they followed
But couldn’t enter.
It was solid like an apple
Or a piece of meat.
What is it?
What is the rock?

‘The Riddle of Morro Rock’ has been shortlisted for the 2016 Berfrois Poetry Prize.

About the Author:

Jennifer Tseng’s first book, The Man With My Face won the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s National Poetry Manuscript Competition and a PEN American Center Open Book Award; her second book Red Flower, White Flower, winner of the Marick Press Poetry Prize, features Chinese translations by Mengying Han and Aaron Crippen; and her forthcoming chapbook Not so dear Jenny recently won the Bateau Press Boom Chapbook Contest.