SAL/ON

A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Three Poems by Wei Wei Lee

dear sweet sister.

A language can span the widest gaps –
political, social, agewise or other.
She’s pleasantly surprised and so am I,
our words tripping, tumbling, spilling
like a spring, like sweet, cold water,
slaking the thirst for something we have no name for
and soothing an ache
we didn’t know existed.
In this city, in this state, this Western world –
shared tongue makes you kith and kin.
and so hereby we are bound, sister.
Not by blood, but by
words that come to us, ambrosia for heartache
as though a prayer answered
from home.

 

understand this.

I am a dual girl, I say, and laugh when they don’t understand.
They don’t understand when I say this land, whose tongue I speak, is foreign,
or how the shade of afternoon sunlight is different from one I knew.
They don’t understand when I speak Mandarin
if only to ease that loneliness.
I am a dual girl, I say, and laugh when they don’t understand.
They don’t understand when I say a project can drive a man to madness,
or how I can love a girl and her tentative smiles.
They don’t understand how I do not miss my mother,
though reasonably, I should.

I am a dual girl, I say, and laugh when they don’t understand.
Laugh in the face of the yawning void asking me,
what are you, little girl, if you are
neither here nor there?

I have no answer.

 

Saudade.

I did not look back.
I did not look back past duty-free (closing for the night), customs, security, check-in counters,
to see where my father, I thought, would still be standing, the grumpy old bear
watching his daughter walk away,
before he went out into the black night,
got in his black car,
and drove home alone.

I did not look back until the plane took off,
saw the glow of my city, my homeland rushing away,
and by then it was too late.

 Since then, I am always half-turned, wherever I go.
Into classrooms, turning corners.
On Metro buses or LINK trains.
Walking to school in the soft wash of sun and dew
or headed home, with the chatter of a friend at my side
and cool evening falling.
I keep looking back, but what I’m looking for isn’t there, won’t be there.
Cannot possibly be there.

I look anyway.

Sometimes (a foolish indulgence) when I crest a hill,
I stretch toward the sky on the very tips of my toes,
peering in the direction of the ocean.
If I am tall enough, I think, perhaps I can see
all the way home.
I never do.


Wei Wei Lee wrote these poems while a tenth grader at Nathan Hale High School, where she was recently named “Poet of the Month.” Performed at SAL’s 2017/18 Literary Arts Series event with Viet Thanh Nguyen on May 7, 2018, at Benaroya Hall.

Posted in 2017/18 SeasonLiterary Arts SeriesPoetryWriters in the Schools