Skip to main content
2017 SpringT3POETS

Three poems

By November 19, 2017March 29th, 2024No Comments
© Wen-Juenn Lee

© Wen-Juenn Lee




Malaysia is a prologue
I am ashamed to write.
friends etched chapters out of countries
built and shaped their lives
with homes in their mouths
but Malaysia falls flat on my tongue
Malaysia is



but how do you condense
contented isolation
confused exhilaration
a stranger in your home
a wai guo ren
in a single word?


Shakespeare did not mean
the diaspora
when he spoke of Antony
straddling East and West
leg pillars on either side
yet I am Antony
the traitor
the foreigner
my mother says people stare at me
as if I do not feel the Otherness myself
you don’t even need to open your mouth


but where are you really from?

my skin is not white

but where are you really from?

I speak with an accent that clings.



A Love Letter to My Mother: a work in progress


My mother speaks to me in riddles.

this is how I’ve learnt to say

have you eaten? 1

what’s the weather like? 2

in the pregnant silence over Skype


She reads Guo Xiaolu and Xinran during the day
fills her head with disillusionment and the diaspora
trauma and loss

but she forwards me chain emails on the dangers of microwaved water

brings homemade dumplings in Tupperware containers when she visits me

and squints at my unmade bed


She tells me there are too many Chinese in Auckland

I do not know what to say

how do you tell your mother

about internalised racism

when she has watched you

tug               your monolids

widen            your eyes

squeeze your body into a box of palatable Asianness?


She takes astronomy classes at night.
I do not ask her why she stargazes

what she looks for

in the oily darkness

we go to a poetry reading on migrant women
I do not tell her
I remember her
crying on the plane
I do not tell her
I wrote sacrifice in my book
but I did not know where to begin.

1 I miss you
2 I love you



From Wellington to Melbourne


The city is a memory that burns from the inside out
here, it takes 9 months to form a heart
but seconds to shatter it


here your bedroom walls are empty and you feel alone
you sleep on a bed           too soft
in an apartment too neat
and you wonder how it will smell in six months’ time.


in a city

with no name to call your home

you will walk past hellos

or rather hullo

loud and guttural and

who said Australians’ accents are similar to New Zealanders’?


the coffee shop down the road does not offer just the regular

not when four million people walk these streets

not when home is a coffee shop in a neighbourhood far away.


in a city so empty         yet so full

with midnight car parks            gaping white bones

one window amongst a multitude
you will hold onto scraps of human recognition
master loneliness so it is your slave
learn to write and eat

hold a single finger (‘table for one?’)

feel the strength of it reverberate in your core.


you will spill unfailing optimism
on the cracked pavements

at the feet of pressed alleyways

because it symbolises A Dream
today I will find a job

today I will make a new friend

today the city expands.


people say they know places like the backs of their hands
you wonder how long it will take you to clutch this city in your palm
to mould its people and lanes         into familiarity

do you even want the awe                     confusion

to fade?

Wen-Juenn Lee

Wen-Juenn is a graduate from the University of Auckland in English Literature and Media Studies. Her mother's love for reading and writing inspired her to write from a very young age. The first film she ever watched was My Fair Lady. Drawing from her experiences as a Malaysian-Chinese in New Zealand, she writes of love, loss and belonging.