Sharon Hashimoto Click to

Sharon Hashimoto teaches at Highline College. Her poems and stories have appeared recently in North American Review, The Raven Chronicles, and River Styx. Her book of poems, The Crane Wife (Story Line Press, 2003) was co-winner of the Nicholas Roerich Prize. She is currently at work on a novel.

My grandmother lifts the corners
of her mouth—a smile with no teeth;
open palms coaxing me to her side.
It’s hot, the thick air sticky on skin.

I stay at my mother’s side, fingers
busy pleating the hem of her skirt
where I can hide. There’s Uncle Kazuo
and Dad. My brother isn’t poking

at my mosquito bites, but joining in
with the many voices speaking
in pidgin about “dem cars.”
Then Mom’s hands rest on my shoulders,

pushing me away, telling me “be good.”
Grandma leads me outside
to where Chinese doves politely bow
at our feet and a red cardinal

hops into a five-gallon glass jar, pecking
up feed. I skirt the shade of the mango tree,
tiptoeing past puddles of shattered fruit
where the fruit flies hover low

close to the ground. I don’t like Hawai’i.
Running to the driveway, I see
our Chevrolet’s tires churns with dust.
In the rear window, the three black heads

of my family disappear.
My zori slippers slap against my heels,
but no one looks back. Around me,
the sun’s rays are the bars of a prison.

“Bumbye, they come home,” Grandma calls.
“I give you mango, yes?” I don’t understand
what she says about Uncle’s car ‘no go’,
about a battery, or the two orange ovals

she cradles against her body. From her kitchen
door, I watch as she peels the skin,
slicing the fruit. All I know is that the juice
stings the small cuts in my mouth.

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2 Responses to Mangoes

  1. Greg Nelson says:

    I like the way the poem contradicts our expectations. A childhood visit to your grandmother’s in Hawaii–what could be sweeter or more idyllic? Well, not this one–not this mango. The sense of estrangement and abandonment are palpable. The quatrains, imagery and syntax, though unadorned, combine narrative with a cinematic quality. The ending crystallizes the bitter memory in a powerful way.

  2. Jennifer Bagger says:

    “Mangoes” is delightfully bitter. There is nothing particularly laboring about any of the words alone, but together the poem exudes an itchy harshness through specific details such as the “Chevrolet’s tires [churning] with dust” and “the three black heads / of [her] family” as they disappear without looking back. The “shattered fruit” and the familiar and unfavorable feeling of “fruit flies [hovering] low” followed by the punchy declaration: “I don’t like Hawaii” similarly convey disturbance and the tense confusion of a child left behind. The use of the present tense effectively brings us into this scene of childhood, abandonment and stinging cuts in our mouths.

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