Monday, November 26, 2012

poem #oftheday: Your First Grade Teacher Insists Your Name Is Lai Fong, Not Lai Yee

Hope everyone had a fabulously filling Turkey Day, as is only proper! We dealt with a temperamental oven while listening to Josh Groban's Christmas CD in my home, but in the end, it was quite a nice time. As the Groban sang, "there's so much to be thankful for."

Today I'm sharing this poem by a good friend of mine, Ms. Lisa Low. One of her poems just got published in Cha Magazine, an impressive Hong Kong-based English online literary journal, for their fifth anniversary issue. So proud of her!

Without further ado:

Your First Grade Teacher Insists Your Name Is Lai Fong, Not Lai Yee
This alphabet means nothing to you
shaping letters and animals.
Your grandfather napping
on a wooden board,
your mother shucking water
chestnuts, shiitakes wrinkling
in a bowl. Your father
who speaks neither
of war nor your stepsiblings
will come home
from Kowloon once this month.
Light speckles the hills
where you learned
to swim. The house where
you sucked the fish heads
dry. Later you'll drink
milk, speak a language
you didn't care for. Afternoons
there are caves and eels,
neighbours gambling
through the storms, saltwater
iridescent as beetles.
I can't see any of this in the little
sunken house you show me.
How your name lives under
the other. What it looks like
having been inside you
for so long. Even now
your bitterness is a silk
envelope heavy with your
mother's gold jewellery. Even now
pails of water you lift
home on both shoulders, leaking.

From the November 2012 issue of Cha.

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