“Eight” by Antoinette Cheung2 min read

0 comment

The Sam Kee Building, Vancouver, circa 1937. (City of Vancouver Archives)

it just took 4
of my 8-year-old steps
to walk past it on the way
to Chinese school
every week
the narrowest building
almost an afterthought
its deep green façade
a kind of camo keeping
eyes from lingering
for too long

head down
I already knew then
the urge to apologize
for taking up too much
in someone else’s country
but in class we were
just kids
we used our birth names
not anglicized versions
that made it easier on
those other tongues despite
the taunts they would toss
at us
we practiced calligraphy
our fists gripping
purpose to blot out what
the chop suey fonts
dotting Chinatown storefronts
told us our language was
supposed to look like
as the wobble of
our brushes steadied
we left our own marks
like snowflakes
on hardened earth

heading home I took
a different route passing
the Sam Kee Building
on its other side its
sheen no longer muted
the red and gold paint
imbued with the psychology
of good fortune
above my head
the bay windows crafted by
tireless hands
pressed outwards
daring to
take up space

I let
a smile part my lips
as I glimpsed
the solitary 8
above the door on West Pender
and recognized that
our ancestors gave us
all we needed
to one day
flourish here
as immigrants


Antoinette Cheung is privileged to have grown up on the occupied lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, as an immigrant from Hong Kong.  She is a poet of primarily haiku and related forms, whose work has been published in international haiku/senryu journals and anthologies. In 2021, she received first place in Haiku Canada’s Betty Drevniok Contest. She is currently co-editor of the online journal Prune Juice.

Leave a Comment