Three Poems Written by Shih Yen Chang

Tūrei 31 Tīhema

Tuesday 31 December


Response to: 
OTHER [ōtepoti chinese]
Alice Canton
15 June–13 July 2019


A four-letter word
A confusing word
Where is my home?
Is it here?
Is it there?
Is it where my heart is?
But where is my heart?
Is home where I belong?
But where do I belong?
Is home a place or a state of mind?
When xenophobes shout, “Go home!”
I wish I knew where that is.
Somewhere I can go and just be
me… at home.

Snow White

It was a cold winter morning. On the top floor of Studholme College, Mei was

reluctantly waking up. She slowly peeled back her blankets and got out of bed. Going to the

window, she opened the curtains to look out. Normally, she had a panoramic view of Logan

Park, but it was so cold that the window had completely fogged up, blurring the world


Mei opened the window and the cold air stung her face. It had snowed the night

before, the first snowfall this season. A thick layer of snow lay on the ground and over the

hills. It was as if the land was covered in a white blanket; everything was white for as far as

the eye could see. Mei leaned out the window breathing in the fresh air. On snowy winter

mornings such as these, it was always so silent, as if the white snow was a sponge that

absorbed all sound. Mei knew she would never see such a strange scene in her native country.

Mei also knew that numb fingers and icy feet would be the price to pay for this

beauty. She looked towards the rising sun, casting its bright light in all directions. The winter

sun was deceiving and Mei knew it was going to be a cold, sunny day. Even though the sun

shone brightly in the sky, its rays brought little warmth. Already Mei could feel her ears and

nose freezing, so she pulled her head back and shut the window.

Mei went downstairs to the dining room and poured herself a glass of milk. She took a

few sips before stopping to stare at the milk. She knew it sounded crazy, but she had never

noticed before that milk was so… white. Suddenly, she had a craving for a plate of hot

yellow egg noodles with lots of black sauce. That would be heaven! Mei could picture the

food right there on the table in front of her and she could almost taste it on her tongue.

Mei shook herself out of her daydream and looked at the clock. She would have to

hurry if she wanted to make it to her lecture on time. She thought of all the white faces she

would see, speaking a foreign tongue. She sighed; she really wished to see another yellow

face in the crowd, someone with dark eyes and black hair, someone else who spoke her

language. Then, she would not feel so alone.

Mei hurriedly gulped down her milk. There was no time for breakfast now. She

grabbed a banana, and headed out the door. Her feet were the first to break the fresh snow.

She trudged through the snow down Clyde Street, picking up her pace when she heard the

bells of the Clocktower chiming in the distance. As she headed deeper and deeper into the

white landscape, she left a trail of footprints behind her in the snow. As the whiteness

enveloped her, she looked like an explorer to a strange, new land.

My Identity

What a billion people are
The only way of being that I know
My heritage
My identity
Something that I’m proud of.

Yellow like a Banana
Yes I am yellow, like a banana.
Banana with yellow skin
But white flesh, I feel like a banana,
Yellow outside, white inside.

Walking alone down George Street,
Coming the other way,
A group of people I meet.
“Go home!” one shouts at me.
Feel like giving them the finger.
Stop. “You’re outnumbered,”
“Don’t stoop to their level,” I say
"Walk away.”

Someone says, “Ching Chong China—”
Before he finishes, I ask
“The hell’s wrong with you?”
“Can’t you speak English?”
… Then walk away.

Shih Yen Chang

Shih Yen Chang is a Malaysian writer whose ancestors came from China. Shih Yen came to Dunedin as an international student many years ago and liked it so much that she stayed.