Poetry Saturday: Hilary Tham

One of self’s purchases from the most recent AWP Bookfair, in Tampa, Florida, was a poetry collection called Bad Names for Women, by Hilary Tham. The author’s bio says that she was born in Kenang, Malaysia, lived in Arlington, Virginia, and had three daughters.

An excerpt from Mrs. Wei Goes Home to Shensi, from the collection Bad Names for Women (Washington DC: The Word Works, 1989)

Aiiyah . . . they told me, they told me true,
See Shanghai, Peking, SiAn first, but I
would not listen, Ancestral Village, then

the tours, I never dreamt a family
so extended, so devoted.
They trudge for miles, hitch rides

on two horse-power tractors, pony carts,
arrive begrimed with coal-dust
just to see my face. My traveler’s checks

vanish like dew on late-morning grass,
exchanged for yuan, sacks of rice,
“You must stay to dinner

(and breakfast) before your trip home,”
My uncle’s wife’s brother-in-law
says he rises at five to work the commune farm,

at dark returns to hoe his ginger patch.
It brings in fen for bread and cloth

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