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the waves :: teow lim goh

by on December 28, 2016

His father died
suddenly, leaving a sick wife
and four young girls.
He decided to go to America, stake
a claim on Golden Mountain,
and come back for me.

He wrote to me
of Angel Island, where officers
scrutinized his papers
and doctors
made him stand naked
as they inspected
his eyes. He built a business
selling groceries,
sent money home, and came back
to marry me.

I threw up on
the sea. He calmed me,
made love to me.
The first time I cried
silently. I had not been
with another man, but I knew
he had a woman.
What could I do? There was
no land in sight.

San Francisco.
The green hills
of late spring on the verge
of a golden splendor. The city
rose from the sea
veiled in a hazy blue.
They let him land
from the ship but I had to board
a ferry. They didn’t even
let us say goodbye.

There’s nothing
we can do. Foreign wife
of a Chinese merchant, your case
is automatically
denied.

At night I watch
the sea. I want its embrace,
cold, dangerous, overwhelming –
in these waves
I will finally be home.

Read more about Goh’s collection of poems on the Angel Island Immigration Station

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