Ivy Song

108,000 Miles

An unsent letter for my uncle

When I was five, you and I duelled
with Tang dynasty verses, a match
to see whose breath held
more poetry. You won with
mind-reader wits, predicting
each poem I had recalled, reciting
each before my turn. I gave up

in the years that followed, replaced
my favourite dead male poets
with Qióng Yáo and Xī Xī,
traded Mandarin for Canadian English.
But I’ll never forget
you taught me how
ancient words can transcend

time and space. In grade seven,
I devoured a novel, tales of bloody
iron intertwined with misty poetry,
a march Māmā only whispered about
because you had stormed through bullets
to shout under the Goddess of Liberty
in your youth. We have never
named this taboo
on our international calls. You sleep

where scholars are stalked
by anonymous cameras, omnipotent
bots, self-created walls. At that protest,
you weren’t much older than me.
Braver than all my superheroes,
until this past summer, when you
asked, why do you care so much
about feminism, when women and men

are already equal? You didn’t know
women in China can only post emoticons
of #mǐtù, #ricebunny, because they can’t
write #MeToo. You didn’t care
I was a freshly broken mirror, shattered
by a white male bookseller’s ching chang
chong, rebroken by two Chinese Canadian
paper kings who kowtowed to their donor
god, demanding I prove my scars real.
Your words added fuel to gaslight, and I

ghosted you. Uneasy silence loomed,
until Auntie’s text thirty nights ago.
News you had fainted, a coma
without an expiration date, leaving
your loved ones hanging
from endless tight ropes. I begged
the Monkey King for magic, his power
to cross 108,000 miles in one single
somersault, the distance

between my fast heartbeats and your
still body. On Midautumn Day,
we can’t even glance up at the same
full moon, its yellow light shadowed
by Lady Chang’E and her bunny.
I just want the ticking clock to freeze
for a few seconds, for you to wake
up, for you to tell me the dreams
you can still remember, the vastness
we can try again to cross.

Ivy Song is the pseudonym and alter ego for a Chinese Canadian fiction writer, poet, and editor. She writes from the cracks between many places, dreaming of a future where writers and artists are no longer censored by oppressive governments, where scholars can speak freely without fear, where history is no longer written only by the powerful, but also the powerless. She writes with love for her family and friends, for the misty poets and exiled writers, for those who are unable to share their stories despite the fact they deserve to be heard.