Tuesday, April 16, 2019

GloPoWriMo Day 11: Deviant

Write a poem of origin. Where are you from? Not just geographically, but emotionally, physically, spiritually? Maybe you are from Vikings and the sea and diet coke and angry gulls in parking lots. Maybe you are from gentle hills and angry mothers and dust disappearing down an unpaved road. And having come from there, where are you now?

Another difficult one to write. My ancestors are from mainland China - I still have family in a small village in Guangzhou, but I've never met any of them even though my father has. I'm non-conventional by any standards, Asian ones in particular - might have something do with the fact that I'm part Hakka, part Cantonese (both Hakka and Cantonese women were well-known for independent streaks, out-spokenness, and putting the fear of heaven and earth into anyone who was unlucky enough to draw their ire.)


The ancient beauties of China are dolls:
                tranquil as the landscapes of Suzhou
                elegant as the calligraphy of Zhao Meng Fu
                graceful and virtuous as little darting swallows.

I am no doll but a weapon in exile:
                a rough dao ready for battle
                fire and fury and iron in my blood
                singing through my veins.

Somewhere between my grandfather’s voyage from China 
                to Malaysia and my eventual birth
                the blueprint for ‘classic Chinese woman’ was misplaced:
                willow-slender frame, alasbaster-pale, drooping-delicate
                obedient, filial, devoted, refined, restrained.

Instead the chaos and flames of the Warring States
                lick hungry just beneath my skin
                Hua Mu Lan biding her time to be reborn
                Every strike and stab of the longsword in my hands.

(‘She reminds me so much of you,’ my mother said, between
                awkward pauses over a trans-Atlantic call many years ago after
                she watched Disney’s Mulan: the only way she could tell me
                she understood what burned behind the doll-face masking
                twenty-four years of a misfit’s rage.)

*Zhao Meng Fu was a famous Chinese calligrapher whose work is held to be a prime example of beautiful writing in several different scripts.

**A dao is one of the 4 traditional ancient Chinese weapons - a curved blade, somewhat like a sabre, and used extensively in battle.


Merril D. Smith said...

Interesting. I think this is definitely a poem about origins--because you are talking about how you deviate from them. But actually, you're saying you deviate from the ideal, and probably not the reality of some of those tough women in your ancestry--and the warriors, like Mulan, too. :) That's probably true in every culture, don't you think? Especially for women? I suspect even some of the dolls rebel in some ways.

Shuku said...

I think it is, yes - or at least, from what I've observed, I don't want to appropriate words or viewpoints! Even the Hakka and Cantonese women had ideals though (marriage and many sons), and I don't fit those either. I'm pretty sure the dolls rebelled; it just never made the history books...

Chris Perry said...

Yes, we have travelled through time over oceans to where we are today, our lives the extension of those others who came before

Shuku said...

Chris, we DO don't we. In some ways, we're always travelling still.

Anonymous said...

The ideal woman everywhere has been too long the submissive doll. My mother hated deferring to men, and yet she expected that I would do it as well.
Our cultural expectations are hard to shed, but I can tell you are very much your own woman! I could definitely see you as a warrior, too.

Angela van Son said...

What can I say? It's what I like about you :)

I love how your explanation and the poem root you in a line of powerful women, and bring forward the lineage/heritage of warrior.

What I also get from the poem is a sense of feeling weird (different from others) in contrast with being a person who brings something special to the world (which other perceive as strange because they don't have that).

My feeling is it's a hero's journey.

Jane Dougherty said...

Trying to post...
I love the exoticism of the words that are transmitting something so fundamental, about you and about so many women. You are unconventional by any society's lights—none like women who fight.

Shuku said...

Kerfe: Thank you so much! I am trying to be my own woman - at least, it's been difficult but I like to think I'm a bit ahead than I was a few years ago, even last year.

Angela: <3 I definitely feel weird most of the time in the world. But I don't think I am a hero though! Perhaps by the time I'm done with the journey I can call myself a hero apprentice in training?

Jane: YAY YOU CAN POST AGAIN!!! You're so right - no society likes women who fight! Well...actually that's not quite true, the Minangkabao people who came here ages ago are matriarchal as a society, and the women are definitely encouraged to fight. Nowadays though, we're expected to be dolls and I don't think I could ever be one. I fidget too much!

Angela van Son said...

I think most heroes don't see themselves as heroes - especially real life heroes. Batman is aware he's something special, I'll have to admit that.