Su Cho

Tangerine Trees & Little Bags of Sugar

My mother speaks of how she was born on an island, where a father
grew   a   family   of   seven    from   one    single    tree    purchased
from a local trader. How he saved for a plot of land & the tangerines
were good—so good.  My mother  speaks  of  how  a mother would
travel back to Seoul alone to buy  sugar— heaps of  sugar  in clumpy
bags—bring  it  back  to package them with ribbons & rippling  clear
cello to the people on the island  who didn’t  know it was possible to
cross the ocean. How these tangerine trees and bags of sugar birthed
a   brick-lined   mansion,   chauffeurs,   &   gift   boxes   of   echoing
Korean  pears  to  each of her  &  her  sibling’s classrooms.  A whole
heavy  box  for  every teacher.  As  I  frown and  complain that these
pears  even  from  Jersey aren’t sweet,  she tells me  to be thankful &
that if  I can’t shave the  skin off  these pears I will never get married.
Be  grateful that  I get to  pick  this fruit.  Grateful  that  we  received
a shipping box full of  bruised tangerines that still  grew on the island
when  they   were  still   alive to  remind  us  of  work.   How  I  used
to scrunch my nose at the furry bruised skin  &  marvel when peeled,
inside  was  plump  fruit,  tasting  like  all  the sugar  & sweat  carried
across the ocean until everyone was satisfied.


First appeared in Thrush


Su Cho received her MFA in Poetry and MA in English Literature from Indiana University, where she recently served as the Editor-in-Chief of Indiana Review. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Journal, Thrush Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, BOAAT, PANK, and elsewhere. You can find her at