Poem-A-Day: Fiona Tinwei Lam

I came across this poem on International Women’s Day and felt so moved by it. The author, Fiona Tinwei Lam, graciously agreed to let me use it this year. She wrote it in a state of extreme frustration and grief — a state which so many of us feel these days, and which so many have felt for so long. Acknowledgements must go to The Tyee online news magazine and Oratorealis magazine.

***

I want to write a poem for every girl and woman today
Who has been told she can’t attend school although her brothers can;
Who has had acid thrown on her dreams;
Who has been shot in the head for thinking;
Who is forced into marriage as if her life weren’t her own;
Who is bought, who is sold;
Who weeps or who can no longer weep
because of the men who trespass her body;
Who is beaten and fearful; who is beaten, but fearless;
Who is starved because she speaks out, speaks back, just speaks;
Whose house is bombed, whose village is razed;
Who is stoned for adultery because she is pregnant;
Who is stoned for a rape that male judges call adultery;
Whose family erases her, whose community evicts her;
Who has just enough money for a single egg;
Who carefully slices that egg for her children to eat;
Who is denied a single day off work;
Who takes on three jobs to keep her family off the street;
Who is whipped by her boss after days without sleep;
Who watches over our children in manicured playgrounds
while her own grow up motherless;
Who lies locked for months alone in a cell;
Who huddles into herself with eyes like trampled flowers;
Whose mind is trapped in the shuddering loop of annihilating night;
Who is told she is nothing when she is everything;
Who is told she is dirt, when she is the Earth.

***

Author of two poetry books, Intimate Distances (City of Vancouver Book Prize finalist) and Enter the Chrysanthemum, and the children’s book, The Rainbow Rocket, Fiona Tinwei Lam’s poetry and prose appear in over 30 anthologiesShe edited The Bright Well: Contemporary Canadian Poems about Facing Cancer,  co-edited the anthology Double Lives Writing and Motherhood, and the anthology, Love Me True: Writers on the Ups and Downs, Ins and Outs of Marriage. Her video poems have screened at festivals internationally. The New Quarterly recently nominated her work for a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart Prize. She teaches creative writing at Simon Fraser University. Find her online at www.fionalam.net.

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