how we survived: 爺爺’s pantoum (ii) by huiying b. chan

we wore watermelon husks to hide lost cargo floating east to hong kong water lilies & crickets our last witness

we departed the cattailed creek one final time.


lost cargo floating east to hong kong

new hing dai treaded water, compasses toward freedom we departed the cattailed creek one final time

white sharks awaited our legs in the depths.


new hing dai treaded water, compasses toward freedom they said we had an 80% chance of making it

white sharks awaited our legs in the depths

𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ + 𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ × 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔 =

𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ


an 80% chance of making it

letters sent back announced survival.

𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ + 𝑏𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ × 𝑤𝑎𝑛𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑔

𝑑𝑒𝑎𝑡ℎ

banked on generations of dreaming


letters sent back announced survival.

we were promised work in the restaurants banked on generations of dreaming

fishermen took pity & reeled us on gasoline tanks.


we were promised work in the restaurants i clawed brown earth before collapsing.

fishermen took pity & reeled us on gasoline tanks five bowls of rice in hong kong, my sweetest meal.


i clawed brown earth before collapsing villagers found us gasping, fish out of water

five bowls of rice in hong kong, my sweetest meal. memories escape me now.


villagers found us gasping, fish out of water. my thoughts enter one ear & leave the other. memories escape me now.

you being here helps me remember.


my thoughts enter one ear & leave the other. water lilies & crickets, our last witness.

you being here helps me remember we wore watermelon husks to hide.




爺爺 — yeh yeh, Cantonese for paternal grandfather

hing dai — Cantonese for brother or close friend

 

HUIYING B. CHAN is a visionary poet, herbalist, & educator born and raised on Lenape Land (Brooklyn, NY). huiying’s body of work explores what is lost and birthed in diaspora, and how we heal from societal wounds. huiying has received fellowships from Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Kundiman, VONA/ Voices, and DreamYard. his poem “how we survived: 爺爺’s pantoum (i)" was recently selected by Kaveh Akbar to be published in Best New Poets 2021. huiying is currently working on a poetry manuscript that explores matriarchal legacies, self-remembrance, and unwritten queer and trans lineages. he loves to swim, and does this work for queer and trans ancestors and descendants to come. you can connect with huiying on Twitter @huiyingb, and huiyingbchan.com.




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