Red Trees by Janice Lee
Limited edition, hand-bound chapbook.
Art by Janice Lee & Jeffrey Uyeno
40 pp / © 2011
FROM THE PREFACE:
This book comes to this final stage after a long process. Originally completed in 2007, various circumstances and events since have questioned the finality of this book.
I worked on these narrative fragments circling around my family and a family business for a particular period of time. And then, for a period of time, I assumed that I was done with the project. It was a sentimental text, clean and easy to understand, without any pretense of being more than what it simply was, a brief family portrait. After describing some of the terrible events at my parents’ gas station, something more terrible happened. My dad had a terrible accident, resulting in heavy damage to his skull and brain. He was in a coma for a couple days, and though the doctors doubted he would every wake up, he did.
I felt that this changed the pretense of my stupid little book. For some reason, I felt that Red Trees was completely inadequate. I was sad and angry and upset, but also very confused. I tried to get advice from many of my writer friends, I couldn’t figure out what to do with this project. Should I rewrite it? Should I add something on? Should I just leave it as was? I really didn’t know. With various opinions, and ideas of my own, something still kept me away for a very long time.
Then, my mother’s recent and very unexpected passing, cast this project into another different light. I was both more inclined to finish the project, but also repelled away by some strange emotional energy. I had been putting this project off for so long, but a large part me didn’t want to get rid of it. Still, I didn’t want to be anywhere near it.
I have decided to leave it as it (mostly, with minimal edits), to dwell on more recent events in a different form, and to distribute this very personal work as a limited chapbook, for friends, family, and interested parties. As a portrait is indeed a view only representative of a certain point in time, I think this text can still operate as what its original title indicated, a family portrait.
I can imagine my father who inherited that limp, perturbed soul, who sits on a chair, who looks ahead, who whimpers then bucks up again, and tries to stand up straight. My father’s ribs stick out like extra appendages, like branches of red trees reaching for more but not being able to reach. I say to myself, this is my father and he should not be a red tree yet. How can I pinpoint the action that destroys a man? There is no sword of lightning that simply strikes a man down; it is slower than that. It is a gradual decay of the roots and of the bark, the bark peeling off in large chunks and moonlight threads that waver in front of his face but he cannot touch anything. This here is a betrayal of stars and moon and dust. Only when folding away leafy clothes and we are belling out for help, only then is there silence.
Other days we can not get the noise to stop.
– Asian American Literature Fans: Review of Daughter, KEROTAKIS, Red Trees – by Stephen Hong Sohn