slang

i don't know how my ancestors walked to canada
over the miles of roads meant for travel faster than foot:
wagon paths of stone and mud with 10 chickens on their back,
there's a reason there are a billion bicycles in China,
great great grandfather must have had to file and sand his own knees
to bend them into perfect circles. how else could these roads be traversed?
meanwhile great great grandmother must have died of worry --
the worst sickness
unknown to the family
because telegraphs didn't span the pacific ocean.
and paper was expensive.
those chickens weren't yet money to buy rice,
and they were too skinny for eggs, not that we could eat shells, anyway.
but maybe we'll try.

did i forget?
how did he get to hong kong?
kowloon?
always the outer skirt of lady britain's domain,
never quite city familiar.

right,
because money's hard to spend,
when its locked in the white banker's savings.

i hear that the bridge lies beneath the waters,
foundations in ruins.
and someday i'll walk it
and meet grandma
on the other side.
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children of canton

i thirst for the connection of language
that thing you so easily conceal
until a few drinks down
and you no longer care
"ngo-di hai loong jai"
we are bound by the same
name same shame same
hate, same insolence same (innocence)..
that the appearance and cadence
of whiteness
is what we strive for
but can never amount to

i wish i could speak like you
i wish my tongue had your wings
i wish i could touch the sky with an aerosol can
painting words like i've never known

f r e e d o m
j u s t i c e
l o v e
l i b e r a t i o n
l 
  i
    f
      e

&
reach into that bag of words
a trick or two.
a greeting. a phrase. an idea.

but until then,
i'll surround myself with police-action movies,
mandarin love songs..
and recreate what my family
could not give me.

letter in a bottle (china, i am alive)

why
am
i
drawn

to
the
best
(west)
coast
of

turtle island

north
america

the
'new'
world...


is
it
because
my
heart
draws
me
closer
to
the
land
i am forgetting?

vancouver
(victoria)
is
my home,
but

i
can't
help
but
wonder..


maybe,

 i

    was

right:


age 5,


"i am emperor
lost
at
sea"

letter
in
a
bottle

(china
i
am
alive)

humiliation day

it
is
july
first

the day when people gather under
glimmering, shimmering fireworks,
candescent coalescent explosions
of joy
awe

&
childhood..

but
in the quiet of my mind
the calm hum in the ambience of my thoughts
there sits an ivory lady dressed in jade;
behind a gilded red curtain

she says,
"can you hear me? i am your ancestor,
	the ethereal phantom of your past,
		the beginning of our ancient bloodlines...

i'm here because though you would call this day 'canada day'
there is a history that no one will tell you,
but here in the quiet of mind you can remember
that this used to be our humiliation,
that the happy and proud people you share this day with
were once banished from voting,
separated by marriage,
forced to pay two-months =
two
YEARS'
salary...

so grandma could eat,
so auntie could learn,
so great uncle would be able to come
(eventually)
to
ca na da,
	and pull rickshaws..

today was once called 'dominion day'
and was celebrated by the white state that would
have your hands for railroad planks,
and feet for steel wheels,
but not allow you to be equal..."


so today i march on
waving a dragon flag
under the golden sun...

and under the night sky,
painted in pastel purple and red
in my heart i remember:

that a battle unfinished
is a battle not lost




and not won.


July 1st, 1923 was the first “Humiliation Day” as it was called by Chinese-not-Canadians when the Dominion of Canada enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act – which prevented many Chinese people to immigrate. Many married couples and children were separated for years, decades, and some never reunited in their lifetimes. They are the never-knew-their-dad people and the paper sons (immigrants who were only related on forged documents). Though my own family never paid the Chinese Head Tax, it still prevented my dad and Grandma and Great Aunt from coming to Canada for five years, meaning Grandpa was only an imaginary person to my dad for his first years of life. I choose today to remember this shame and how it continues to affect us in the present day.

why (do i always)

why

do

i

always

have to explain..


that my cantonese
is 'siu siu.'

'mm sick gong,'

that
  i can't speak
		'that'


(well).

that long before
my ancestors came to the
new land, i was already
forgetting a home and slipping
through my small fingers
was a language
which

i
learned
in
translation.

that i wish my ability to communicate
was fed to me at birth -

that
i worked so hard to forget
and to remember...

why do i always have to explain
that i cannot speak,


but i understand.

A thunder

Oh when i hear that southern drawl
The kind that originates
In the mother land,
the Wide East...

That language of tongue that is not
Tone alone, but slang and wit and
Whip-fast clever, a posture
and a history...

Do not mistake my polite nods
for empty listening.

That language creeps into me like a mountain rain,
drifting above freshwater pools and lakes of emerald
in an updraft,
collecting at the ridges and peaks that are
the bent
backs
of my ancestors

weighted down by law and conquest
they offer me their suffering
and call it a better life

on their steep slopes

salt drips crashing through the currents
of brownwater,
resting in pools and pristine waters
that would pose as the sky..


Here
between
cracked canyon smiles,
haunting granite faces:

i am  a rain
      a field

      A thunder