Immigrants by Jiameng Xu

Poem title: Immigrants
Poet name: Jiameng Xu
Poem: Pulled from dreams of a land 
You’re already calling your past
You wake to new walls, new ceilings
To snow that stays on the grass
Here bare branches like skeleton hands
Rise from the ground
Leaves are painted in fire –  
One can change one’s colours 
To suit the times

Your tongue curls to fill the contours of new sounds 
Your lips to new forms, yearning to be understood 
But your mouth has a memory of its own
Yet when you write letters home
Your fingers warm to the well-worn edges 
Of oft-learnt characters 
Their weights and angles are within you, and you vow
Never to forget their shape

In the night you speak with her, your voices
Braiding a thread of solace
Looking at her now-smooth face, you know
The strident winds, the inertial cold
Will etch their passage onto her skin
As the tree rings of a life
In the lines beneath her eyes
You’ll read the chronicle of your journey
Now side-by-side, sharing a single pair 
Of gloves, you fold your inner hands 
Into each other as you walk into snow
She starts talking to you of children
That’s when you know – 
She wants to stay too

Overhead the stars look different
What destinies do they hold?
Here they call you brave
Back home they call you crazy
It depends on which face
Of the earth you’re standing on
End of poem. 
Credits and bio: Copyright © Jiameng Xu
Jiameng Xu graduated from the MD-PhD program at McGill University in 2021. She completed her PhD dissertation, “Practices of Being Near: An Ethnographic Study of Family Members and Persons with Lived Experience of Mental Illness,” in the department of Rehabilitation Science and the Connected Narratives Lab led by Professor Melissa Park. She has been involved in initiatives to create a space for the arts and humanities within health professional training and settings of health-care delivery, including Journeys Through Health, an exhibition of artworks by persons with lived and living experience of illness that was displayed within the halls of two teaching hospitals in Montreal. She helped to found the McGill Humanities and Arts in Medicine interest group, and was nominated by her medical school classmates to deliver a speech at their graduation ceremony. Currently a psychiatry resident at the University of British Columbia, she aims to dedicate her career to working with patients and their families.