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Postlude to Water Melody

rén yǒu bēi huān lí hé 人有悲欢离合, People have sorrow and joy; they part or meet again

how many people has she been?

how many footsteps has she left

from salty seas

to frosty breeze

to summer warmth

to airplane seats.

on this long winding path,

she left a younger soul in

every place she called


the Shanghai sky that heard her laugh

and Montreal clouds that held her

first snow.

when you learn to fly,

you learn to leave behind.

one day,

you’ll hold those smaller selves you’ve shed

like skin and in your fingers they are

the glossy paper of a return ticket,

fragile and unfamiliar but

worth it nonetheless.

yuè yǒu yīn qíng yuán quē 月有阴晴圆缺, The moon is bright or dim and she may wax or wane

in dreams,

she can shine with the stars,

glow with all the colors of

this kaleidoscope soul.

yet here she finds herself always

half-cast in shadow,

never bright enough

for her homeland.

never fully anything

in the foreign sky

she cut pieces from herself to fit into.

there’s beauty here in

the spilled galaxies and diamond ice, but her

crescent smile still wanes when she thinks of


how those constellations glitter

unreadable in the night she

once knew.

cǐ shì gǔ nán quán 此事古难全。 There has been nothing perfect since the olden days.

those days when the words fit in her mouth like

baby biscuits in Beijing,

small and sweet,

soft to swallow

when mother tongue didn’t taste like dust

like the residues of her hesitation left on

an abandoned language

when her poems could have been carried in

cascading characters

instead of these letters and lines

the regret is less bitter,

more empty

like this heart once filled with

the bedtime stories an older self forgot to speak,

the faint words still ringing with a promise.

dàn yuàn rén cháng jiǔ 但愿人长久, So let us wish that humanity may live as long as we can!

because her fingers found the gloss of paper again,

pressed hands to printed pages and

folded her own return tickets.

there is a world out there and it is so

full of people,

full of long winding paths and

half-lit moons

there are still more destinations,

more Shenzhen summers to see and

Toronto winters to dream,

may it thrive like the stories that

blossomed across borders,

may it whistle across the sunrise to follow

jets flying home

qiān lǐ gòng chán juān 千里共婵娟。 Though miles apart, we'll share the beauty she displays.

holding her hand out, the wind carries

the breath of her past selves and

she holds them close despite the

distance in time.

she wove her own story,

wrote her own language in the poems

she calls home,

found a new beauty in her

kaleidoscope ways,

in the shine of eastern silk under western sun,

in the melody of Mandarin beside crisp English

& through the airplane window, her eyes blink

in the skyline of Vancouver night,

a moon that fades some days but

returns to shine,

her song ebbing with

the gentle tide.


Author's Note: This poem is an exploration of my own feelings about how immigration has affected my cultural identity and sense of self. This piece is inspired by the ancient Chinese poem “Prelude to Water Melody” which the poet Su Shi wrote about missing his brother one night while he’s gazing at the moon. I think there’s something about the concept of missing a family member you haven’t seen in years but accepting that you’re still connected to them that is so similar to the immigrant child experience of missing some parts of your culture(s) but eventually accepting that you’re still connected to that place and identity.

Editor(s): Alisha B.

Photo Credits: Unsplash


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