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King Far

A combination of Mother’s Day, Chinese New Year, and tough times in 2020 has had me thinking about my maternal grandmother.

Her exact birthday wasn’t recorded, but she was born about a hundred years ago in a remote village in northern China before later emigrating to Hong Kong. She survived the Cultural Revolution, two world wars, including the Japanese invasion and occupation of Hong Kong, and raised three children on her own.

On top of that, my grandmother was functionally illiterate for all of her life, because girls like her were not given an education in those days. The only thing she learnt to read or write was her own name, King Far, which means golden flowers, and so this short piece is named for her.

Sidenote: This poem was “highly commended” in the Leeds Writer Circle 2020 Poetry competition. 



by S Dean

I will not live in silent rooms
where all my mothers died;
forgotten women lost in time
feet bound by cultural pride.
I will not drag the tired plow
its sharpness long devoured;
I know the secret of my name—
ancient, golden flowers.

The tides of revolution
wash me down to southern seas
by shores the English bought in blood
to sell their poppy seeds.
I’ll build my home on iron streets
and nest in concrete towers;
far from where my mothers died
I cut my roots, and flower.

A skipper with a paper heart
brought gold to stake his claim;
my daughter, do not trust the men
who take away your name.
Buddha, great unchanging friend
for you the incense burns;
teach my children all the words
that no one let me learn.

War sails into our island port
six thousand shot to silence;
The Japanese are here to break
the spirit of our defiance.
The killing bombs consumed their skin
yet liberated me;
the price of peace is always death
and death’s reward, is peace.

But all things under Heaven pass,
all sorrows gift us hope;
my years unspool to grey and I
give thanks, for growing old.
And when I’m gone, remember me
by that which gave me power;
the secret of my written name—
ancient, golden flowers.