“His Long Tapered Fingers” (Fay Chiang, 1979)

Fay Chiang is a Chinese-American poet, artist and community activist. Born in 1952, she began publishing in the 1970s, and has released three collections of poetry that I can find: In The City of Contradictions (Sunbury Press 1979), Miwa’s Song (Sunbury 1982), and 7 Continents 9 Lives (Bowery Press 2010). It is through the Sunbury Press that I discovered Chiang, in fact — this was a press founded by Virginia Scott in 1974, to publish under-represented poets — women, people of colour, working class writers. Sunbury published not only collections by individual poets, but also anthologies under the imprint Sunbury–a poetry magazine. I found one of these anthologies, American Born and Foreign, at the library while looking for Asian-American poetry, and thus discovered Chiang, who is one of the guest editors Scott invited to work on the book. There are three of Chiang’s poems included, and this is my favourite of them:

his long tapered fingers
  guide my young hand curved around
  bamboo brush pen
      to form my name
         in chinese:

              family name, chiang; from northern china
               we came south on
                 tamed wild horses and became
              middle name, wei, shared by you and your
                sisters, intelligence
              and your own ping, for peace or plains of green field

bits of characters:
    green, heart, three dots of water, woods, home

write again and again, your name,
   that you may never
             forget it.