Poetry & Writing

sample image


In the bedroom, the old Chinese sisters, my grandmother

and great-aunt, are shoving their folded dollars

into lucky red envelopes all morning.

My great-aunt is visiting from Canada,

widowed fifty years, and her only child,

a baby girl without hair, was found

dead one night, overfed

by the maid. My grandmother, the younger sister,

fills her house with four children

and eleven grandchildren,

complains about dying

every weekend.

Forty years, few facts have changed,

yet they are arguing relentlessly

again as they wait for my youngest uncle

to take them out for Sunday dim sum, the little bit

of heart over tea. You carried your son to me, piggyback.

No, my son was old enough to walk.

You gave your son to me, then you took him back.

No, you told him my village was full of cowdung

so he wouldn't come back.

In my family, this is our legacy.

Every generation, a child is given away for safekeeping

because of war, poverty, other children.

My mother gave me to my grandmother, and I was twelve

when my youngest uncle told me

Respect your mother because she has lost.

If she and your grandmother were drowning,

we know whose life you would save.

When the morning arguing boils off,

and every red envelope in the house is filled,

my uncle arrives, and the family stands

back as the two sisters push towards him

like knives over his heart.

                                                                        Priscilla Lee

Grandma and my Great Aunt 1980's