Boundless, across boundless, wave-driven miles,
white clad steel groaned against current.
In bitter fifth month fog, I arrived at a different place,
but now, they bid me depart.
Lazy wanderer, empty of speech, the village
home not near nor in sight.
Nothing but a wood house humped up and cold,
and wind moans without meaning.
The ferry will dock hard, edge me
Once aboard that slow boat home, day won’t dawn
again for a thousand years.
Day won’t dawn again in a thousand years, and
of what use were all my careful lies?
Those here weeping, who wave farewell, they'll earn
their prerequisites and land.
My own clan will grieve on, but others, with reason,
soon full of small song.
Once you’re dead and gone,
Trust yourself to the open sea,
it will take you in.
Note From The Author: This poem is one I wrote while working on the translation project of the Chinese wall poetry at Angel Island. It imagines an immigrant ancestor who suffered the ultimate disappointment of deportation. This poem is inspired by T’ao Ch’ien’s classic Tang poem about leaving the sentient world in old age and entering the unknown, much like a deportee drifting about on an uncertain sea.
Jeffrey Thomas Leong
Jeffrey Thomas Leong is an American poet and writer. For two decades, he worked as a public health administrator and attorney for the City of San Francisco. He earned his MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and while there, began a project to translate the Chinese wall poems at the Angel Island Immigration Station. His book of translations, Wild Geese Sorrow, was published by Calypso Editions in 2018. Jeff’s new chapbook Writ from Eastwind Books of Berkeley fully imagines the Angel Island detainee experience. He lives with his wife and daughter near Oakland, CA.