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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.