Sunday, November 28, 2021

Poetry Break: Angel Island Poems

The Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation maintains a wonderful website cataloging the poetry left by detainees on the detention barrack walls. There are so many moving pieces. Here's one that really spoke to me:

Sitting alone in the customs office,
How could my heart not ache?
Had my family not been poor,
I would not have traveled far away from home.
It was my elder brother who urged me
To embark on a voyage to this shore.
The black devil here is unjust-
He forces the Chinese to clean the floor.
Two meals a day are provided,
But I wonder, when will I be homeward bound?

Lee from Toishan District, September 4, 1911 

On the website, you can listen to the poem, read in the original Toishanese.


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