Please note: This poem was originally published in print, and we've preserved the original layout. On larger screens, some lines may therefore appear cut off; to read them, simply drag the text area in the desired direction.

1972 you left china believing
one day you’d
go home
1981 show your children
all they had been
missing until
one day

june 4 1989
you knew you wouldn’t. and so instead, you taught them
everything you could, the living
room on dundas
     chinese flashcards, picture
             maps spanning 2400 years, an empire’s borders shifting

you believed in your flesh despite the surplus of cow’s milk and wheat they ingested, 
distance from ancestral ashes,
despite american television, they
would be different,
they were different.

years later you were able to say
you’re not
what i expected
their bones, your mutant
hopes forever
calcifying, flesh marbled with
your affectionate perplexity.

Olive Senior read this piece in manuscript, helping develop it for TOK.
View Yaya Yao’s author profile.
TopArt by Gilbert Li and Lauren Wickware

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