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
when you learn to fly,
you learn to leave behind.
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
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
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
instead of these letters and lines
the regret is less bitter,
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
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
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