at the kitchen table

grandpa's painted violin
adorns his always shaven chin
under the pinks, blues, purples and greens,
lies a 10,000 dollar appraised reverberating tone
that resonates with the present.

sound
not the absence of air
be the presence of motion
stillness in
song.

and the price of the ticket
3 trips across the pacific.

one journey home.

i have heard these conversations
his music
if only while i was asleep.

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.

diasporic memory

we act like that won't happen to us
like our lands haven't too been ravished
because we gave that up
for the safety
of
our family.
we rejoice at nightmarkets
festivals that dot the landscape
like stars in the sky

but we forget
that fireworks quickly turned into fires
thunders
and when we deny the violence that happens abroad

we inch our way further from home.

we're american
canadian
something new

but the people who make our clothes
but the people who grow our food

they   look   just   like
   us.

a foreigner

i am a foreigner
 only, i don't know from which land
 i am foreign to.
 here, in a nation called "Canada"
 i am not treated as a citizen. though, i was born
here
and qualify by the rules.

i am treated as an outsider
 within my own people,
 gossip passed in front of me,
 like a bottle of wine
 around a young child.
contents forbidden.

and when i go back 'home'
 i cannot read the signs in my language,
 only in English.
 i need a translator
 to speak to my elders.

and, though i try to find a home in the name of
 "wanderer"
 i do not really go wandering.
 if anything, i am searching,
 purposefully looking with intent,
 but the results are not easy
and as i dig, and dig, and dig,
the deeper i go, &
the wider the hole.
the wider the hole.
the wider the hole.

no train to china

i'll never give up my history
to assimilate into a culture
that has forgotten its name
a culture whose web
of ancestry.com videos
tries to sell back family history
that was lost
because it was more convenient
not to have to carry ID.
the stories of my people
involve telling white people
with white tongues
how to fill out white papers.
a white stamp on our head
tax certificate: a white lie.
the least wanted:
the most documented
and white i white my story,
50, 100, 150 years later
white letters turn brown
in well-whited archives
listed addresses in the white pages
never white delivered
to village homes
in red china.

still,lost
grandfather's secrets murmur
beneath white
blankets on gold mountain,
under a fresh layer of
white noise.

This poem was inspired by the ACCESS community television broadcast series Uncovering Gold, which discusses Chinese-Canadian migration through a multimedia format. Part 1 can be found here: http://youtu.be/eP5dakbuXG8.

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.

chinatown (like it was yesterday)

I remember Old
		China

Town, like it was yesterday

elders walking the streets

and sleeping on stones

houses built on our bones

Found in the park cans collected and exchanged for yarn to spin into mittens and sweaters that always needed adjusting for me.. and the other babies because we kept growing she says nothing but through that blue, milky eye "I knew better" i see that our world equips us with daggers and guns and spears pointed at ourselves And the greatest trick is to mistake myself as the enemy, Not fights with mirrors or a Disney reflection, no these are words of my own, self-inflicted wounds, injuries we endure and feel but cannot see or hear
they build houses over our bones while we sleep on stones like it was yesterday

The colonization of Canada affected many people: First Nations who lost (and are continually losing) their land and homes and cultures and language; Black slaves who are forever tracing their steps back to their ancestry and never told of their own contributions to the colony; Chinese people who were separated from family, and some who were never reunited; Ukrainian, Croatian and Irish people who were never considered “white” until recently. The images in this poem are what I imagine when I learn about the history of Vancouver and colonization. Just as early white settlers stole from Aboriginal people, the state’s colonization of people of colour continues to dominate us through the gentrification and “development” of lands we live – whether it’s the borrowed-but-never-returned sacred land or a viaduct built over the only Black village or expensive buildings pushing out poor Chinese elders. The establishment that is called Canada is largely an occupation of unceded First Nations land. Much of their history and ancestry is left buried beneath the foundations of homes, village halls, museums, stores, restaurants, businesses and properties. So, too with “immigrant” folk. And the great tragedy is we are starting to think of this kind of racism as a relic of yesterday.