this is an offering

prayer-plump oranges, old wine & incense
at the altar, children ply family ghosts
for advice & good luck with boiled eggs
at the altar — give thanks! — a single boiled egg
for your birthday, egg waffles, egg tarts,
dried plums for car rides, car rides for cousins
& plane rides for grandparents.
children forget to call grandparents
except on New Year’s, forget the Cantonese
for Happy New Year, forget everything our parents
taught us to say, forget to mean it when we say
I love you, I mean, I forgot we never say I love you.
we love each other with food & forget
how to write our own names.
change our names for immigration
papers, change our names for paper-skinned tongues,
we great great grandchildren of paper daughters
& paper sons always trying to be better
daughters, better sons to our parents
who shunned MTV for tape cassettes of teresa teng
singing about the moon, or was it their hearts, or some other
bright, soft thing we could never touch?
good thing we learned to forgive, thought we learned
to forget until even the most brightly dressed
apology couldn’t make us forget immigration acts
& head taxes, couldn’t uncasket thousands of railroad workers,
our men by the thousands from an island owned
by the British, original model minority built a railroad
to help someone else’s land get stolen by the British
& our apology still hasn’t come, my people
we are nothing if not stubbornly
naive, we believe it possible to chart our destiny
by the proper arrangement of furniture,
name places not for what they are but what we believe
they could be, Gold Mountain, Lucky Seafood Restaurant,
Home. true, we are not wanted here but still
we make do, we make rice, we make bad TV
comedies, we make light of our new names, chink exotic
esl anchor baby. our flag, our fortune the colour of blood
before the wound, we become our own ancestors.
we, the grandmas practicing tai chi
in the public library, we the aunties gossiping
over mahjong and tea, we the pacific mall karaoke
queens, we the tender queer who finds self care
in astrology, stakes their dreams on something bigger.
we the kid who crosses out her poetry
so she can become a doctor.
an accountant. a bridge for her parents.
who will still become an artist. become Grace
Lee Boggs. Kai Cheng Thom. Maxine Hong Kingston.
my people, my family this is not a complete history
this is a hand-drawn map
of home & this is an offering
I am still trying to deserve
& this is a survival song & an invocation
& this is a love story this is a love story
this is a love story this is a love story
this is a love story

 

Jody Chan is a community organizer and writer based in Toronto. Her writing explores family, queerness, and mental illness. She is a 2017 VONA alum, and her poetry has been published in Ricepaper Magazine, Minola Review, and Ascend Magazine.