I can’t write the symbols for my Chinese name.
But I have one. I have two:
one for the mainland where they exiled me,
one in Hong Kong so they won’t know.
I understand there’s a direction to the strokes.
Go down for the first,
across, across, then squiggle
a thing that looks like a falling bird.
They could say anything, but they
tell me it’s Li, not Lee which I’d prefer,
and it’s okay. No one speaks it anymore.
Only the customs agent has ever written it on paper;
only she drew the falling bird
without knowing it was me.
by Lauren McKenzie Reed
Lauren McKenzie Reed received her MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University, where she taught for six years. She also has a MA in World Languages, Literature, and Linguistics so, in addition to teaching and publishing, Reed has studied and worked in several countries, including Mali, Germany, Ukraine, China, Hong Kong, and Australia. She has twice been forced by a government to immediately leave the country she was calling home.