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– 金庸《笑傲江湖》

where there are people, there are favors owed and resentment found. where there is favor and
resentment, there is jiānghú. where there are people, there is jiānghú.

– Jin Yong, The Smiling, Proud Wanderer

仁 compassion

consider, the first glimpse of this strange world
   silver wings gliding over the rivers & lakes
            of this faraway territory

the vast expanse of open sky
      fields of wheat stretching impossibly    toward the endless horizon
                          (a sharp inhale)

we rely on the welcome of strangers
      & their church, their singular God and His son and their ghost
            & potlucks and bible studies and badminton lessons

i wear a smiling mask while
      slowly    shedding    who i used to be
                          like snake skin

practice wrestling vowels under my tongue
                   (a long exhale)

when i see snow falling for the first time
   (a dream, caught with both hands)
         i could almost believe
            in the existence of their God

忠 loyalty

immigrant daughters

traverse the waterways of the new culture
   (translate, interpret, decipher)
      utility bills,
         parent teacher interviews,
                  requests for jury duty

navigate the sects of immigrant communities
   (volunteer, contribute, attend)
         the taiwanese association,
            the chinese school,
                  the society for newcomers

immigrant daughters

dodge sharp barbs thrown in ambush
                十面埋伏 from all directions


(aunties and uncles and teachers and parents)

nowhere is safe
from disappointment

勇 courage

for fifteen years i refused to call myself an immigrant
            resented the burden of the label
         moving here was not    my choice

later i find myself wandering
      province to province

child no longer,
   with children of my own

looking back:
         at my father
            the俠 flying wanderer
            who flew between two worlds

         at my mother
            the俠 woman warrior
            who bore the weight of all our loneliness

i now know
   the strength it took
         to leave the familiar

i try to speak of it
   but there are no words for it
         in the new tongue or the old

to my parents: an impossible debt

a favour (owed)



returning to
   the changed landscape
                  this unfamiliar place
                        i once called home

the old apartment, sold
the favorite breakfast shop, moved
the neighborhood park, demolished

nothing tethers me here

                  (you can’t go back)
there is no secret manual
   no ancient rite
      to return me to who i was

i am my own
   仇人 enemy
choking upon
   this clumsy, traitorous tongue
realizing, this mask i’ve worn too long
      has become my face

i walk the edge
      of regret and wonder

throw myself off the cliff    of Knowing
                  (you can’t go back)

& emerge

on the shores of Canada

   by footprints in the snow)

   by the ghosts i used to be

Judy I. Lin (she/her) is a Taiwanese-Canadian writer of fiction and poetry. She is the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of the Book of Tea duology (A Magic Steeped in Poison and A Venom Dark and Sweet). Find her online at
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