April Lit: "She Will Never" by Wing Tek Lum

April 18, 2014

As part of our celebration of National Poetry Month, we offer you a second dose of Asian American poetry. "She Will Never" is one of the many unflinchingly brutal poems in Wing Tek Lum's most recent collection, The Nanjing Massacre: Poems (Bamboo Ridge Press). The collection explores the horror of the titular event from multiple perspectives -- including that of Japanese soldiers, comfort women, and child victims -- forcing readers to intimately confront the cruelty and tragedy of the Nanjing Massacre. "She Will Never," reprinted with permission, is a heartbreaking litany by the mother of a young victim. 

Hyphen will be co-sponsoring an event featuring Lum and other APIA poets on April 24th at the Kearney Street Workshop.

-- Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor


She will never chant nursery rhymes to her younger brothers,
prepare hot water for the family tea shop,
or play the hen guarding chicks with neighbor girls.

She will never help clean out her father's pigeon coops,
join in the folk dances in the park at night,
or embroider the apron for her dowry.

She will never catch the eye of the barrel-chested cobbler,
see a mother's tears when she leaves home,
or kneel to receive red envelopes from her new family.

She will never learn to steam her husband's favorite carp,
mend his overcoat and attend to his bed,
or answer him back and get away with it.

She will never scream during the birth of her daughter,
teach her to bargain for vegetables at the market,
or praise the straight edges of her weavings.

She will never mourn at her father-in-law's funeral,
count the cash her husband brings back home each day,
or pay from her own purse for her sons to learn to read.

She will never comb her hair lost in reverie,
offer thanks to the Goddess of Mercy for their blessings,
or climb the city ramparts to view the purple mountains.

She will never fear the bombs being dropped on our streets,
hide as the demon soldiers march through the plaza,
or wail as they bash her child's head against the wall.

As I have.



Wing Tek Lum

Wing Tek Lum is a Honolulu businessman and poet. His first collection, Expounding the Doubtful Points (Bamboo Ridge Press, 1987), received the 1988 Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award and the 1988 Association for Asian American Studies Outstanding Book Award. He collaborated with Makoto Ooka, Joseph Stanton, and Jean Yamasaki Toyama on linked verse in What the Kite Thinks (Summer Session, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 1994).