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A Love Letter to Yie Chen
Margaretta Lin
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A Love Letter to Yie Chen

Part I

Jade Harmony lost face on her wedding day
 She didn’t know the Eiyan making ritual
  She had spoilt her girlhood dreaming of becoming a pianist
   Mother-hood, daughter-in-law-hood, she knew were to be feared

Until she met a man with monkey ears 
 And eyes that spoke of yearning and determination
  She forgot her vow to never become her mother
   And traded in her dreams of Schubert serenades

Jade Harmony’s mother-in-law was angry at her bad luck
 A daughter-in-law whose wedding day Eiyan were misshapen blobs
  The ensuing retribution would take decades to play out


Jade Harmony’s daughter commits the mortal sin
 She’s no spring chicken but has no thoughts of marriage binds
  She argues with her mother and has pretenses of knowing better
   Educated in foreign ways, she’s lost to the suffering of her mother’s days

Jade Harmony’s daughter overcooks her
 Too big

Making Jade Harmony
 Secretly glad

Part II

In one of my earliest memories of you
 We are at the sea
  You have gone into the water, alone

I watch the angry descent of waves
 I forget to play in the sand

By the ancient powers of mother-daughter bonds, I knew
 That I risked the loss of you
  That you were choosing solace from the war zone they call our family

You had believed he was different from the father you never knew
 That the destiny of female servitude had been broken with your birth
  But you didn’t reckon with his fate as the family’s sacrificial lamb 
  He had to leave you in order to save his mother, two brothers, three sisters,
   their spouses and progeny

I watch your interaction with the waves
 Like the mirrors of time 
  like cobwebs to the fly trapped
   Like mother  like daughter
    Lives not of our choosing

I scream out your name
 A primordial calling of my need for you
  A deep and ancient power
   The bloodline pulls stronger than the other
    You turn around
     And return to me

Part III

I am not normal, you say
 Why can’t I marry
  Give you grandchildren
   Settle down

As a child
 I had eyes that saw your tears salting the sweet New Year’s cake
  Feeding those who complained of corn soup twice in a week
   While your piano keys stayed cold

Things are different now, you say
 Women are strong
  In-laws aren’t around

When memories of kitchen fights linger still
 Of when I stood petrified at the top of the stairs 
  unable to go down to rescue you

How can I say to you


  And so much more

Part IV

Every morning I woke to the sound of your voice greeting the dawn
 Sweet, melodious, and strong

It soothed away the fears of the night and yesterday’s sadness

You sang of birds and butterflies
 Of mountaintops where God lived
 Of little girls with no cares

You sang the hope back into me

What immense courage and strength you had
 Moving past your sorrows and pain
  Forced separation from your mother
  The strangers who pronounced you inferior 
  Losing Dad when his plane fell out of the sky

Today, people would call you resilient
 I call you
  My Mother

MARGARETTA WAN-LING LIN is the daughter of Yie Chen and Shu Ren Lin who inspired her to stand up against injustice. She is the mother of Ananya Li and Nikhil Kuai Bhatia-Lin who taught her the importance of joy and silliness. Margaretta was born in Taiwan and met her father for the first time in the US shortly after the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in practice in the 1960s. Her experience of growing up and enduring acts of both racism and the love of neighbors have defined her life journey of racial reconciliation and social justice. She is currently the founding director of Just Cities/the Dellums Institute for Social Justice.

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