My Mother’s Hands
Dear Asian Youth, My mother’s hands are heavy Like fabric soaked in tepid water Prayers lace the gaps of thin worn fingers Strength...
Dear Asian Youth,
My mother’s hands are heavy
Like fabric soaked in tepid water
Prayers lace the gaps of thin worn fingers
Strength etches into fragile feminine hands
She told me once
Of a searing hot morning
Sweaty tanned bodies pressed flush together
They paddled in the sweltering heat
Water creeped up a wooden boat
The lukewarm liquid soaking her toes
Relief then panic seeped into slender ankles
Small childlike hands clasped together
Calloused pads gripped the edges of bony knuckles
Perhaps fearful her prayers would slip through
Her fingers like salty water through timber
Quiet desperation infused her words
Cries of help drifted in the afterglow of the rising sun
Like a broken piece of wood on the ocean’s edge
Struggling to keep afloat
It travels further from my fingers
Feet stuck in the sandy grains of an island
I am left to watch.
But now she is here by my side
Prayers buried in the soft flesh of her palm
Grown cold in the stillness of the water
Instead my whispers of “Thank you” warm in her hands
– Feileen Li
This piece involves a story my mother once revealed to me about her past prior to her arrival in America. My mother was one of what are known as the “boat people.” She was a refugee who fled the Vietnam War by boat. During her escape to America, there was a time when the boat she was on began sinking. She was ultimately rescued, but this story is something that I will never forget.
I would like to place emphasis on the last two stanzas of my poem. I will never be able to completely understand the struggles that my mother went through, and it will never be my place to claim these struggles as my own. I hope that people understand that my mother’s (and any immigrants’) experiences should never be generalized and that this poem is not a representation of what she endured. This poem is simply about my appreciation for my mother’s inner strength and her existence in my life today.
Cover photo source: https://geographical.co.uk/people/the-refugee-crisis/item/1112-vietnam-s-boat-people