Priory Students 'Write Like Wing Tek Lum'

By Joan Perkins

“Did Japan really invade China?”

My American Literature sections were reading Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, and the student who asked this question had been deeply affected by the description of Suyuan Woo’s terrifying escape from Kweilin. The question led to research projects and a visit from Bamboo Ridge poet and long-time business manager Wing Tek Lum.

On Oct. 10, Lum visited the American Literature students at St. Andrew's Priory School to read and discuss pieces from his upcoming collection, The Nanjing Massacre: Poems. This volume captures the voices of the victims of the infamous rape of Nanjing. To offset this tragic material, Lum balanced out the reading with poems that focus on the challenges and rewards of family relationships.

While studying Lum’s style and technique in preparation for his visit, the students realized that he sometimes uses a characteristic structure for his family poems. In the poems “Filial Thoughts” and “This Secret Charge,” Lum opens with an anecdote and then moves to an extended metaphor. While the anecdote establishes a conflict, the metaphor provides the resolution. Once they had identified this pattern, the students were eager to see if they too, could write like Wing Tek Lum. The assignment was to compare someone they love to a vegetable, as Lum does in “Filial Thoughts.” After some negotiation, however, the assignment was revised to include fruit as well as vegetables and a free-choice option for those whose creative vision led them in different directions.

Lum’s visit to the Priory closed with a reading of the poems the students had written in response to “Filial Thoughts.” With typical generosity, Lum asked, “Can I steal these poems?” and claimed that students’ work was the best part of the program. At his invitation, these poems are posted below. From the Japanese invasion to an active celebration of family love, the students’ poetry unit mirrored the same extremes of human experience and behavior they had encountered in Joy Luck Club. And repaying his compliment, the students decided that reading and writing like Wing Tek Lum was the very best part of this learning experience.


Eggplant Shaped People
By Domo Elento

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m at the dinner table
Sharing a dish of eggplant and pork
Thinking of this vegetable
Slightly round at the bottom
Skin smooth and shiny,
A glossy beauty.
When seasoned generously,
Grilled to the perfect temperature
One bite of the spongy texture
Makes up for
A hard day of labor
Or the coming Monday morning.

However, like my life,
It could use more spice.

Exposing Your Heart
By Brianne Futa

A resistant thistle
With layer after layer
Each one equally thick and tough
Each bringing me closer to your heart
And a few thorns and tips
Creating a hard exterior
To protect and hide
Your feelings, memories, and dreams.

When boiled,
You become soft and open up
Exposing your tender heart.

And when combined with spinach, cream, and garlic
Served with crunchy chips
Your green teardrop-shaped shields are stripped away
And you become subtle
Enhancing the flavor of those around you
With a soft, unique taste
Only I know.

A Poem Modeled on Wing Tek Lum’s “Fillial Thoughts”
By Nicole Heafner

Like a watermelon you are strong outside,
smooth and beautiful.
Inside you are soft and sweet.

You are refreshing after a long week,
but bite into the rind
and you can be a bit tart.

I am the seed
that you helped grow,
strong and soft like you.

A Poem Modeled on Wing Tek Lum’s “Filial Thoughts”
By Emalani Kam

Waiting in my room I begin to smell
a pungent and foul odor penetrating my nose.
I walk to the kitchen and spot an onion.
Onions are feisty and flamboyant.
Their powerful scent can make someone cry.
Yet, when caramelized with cheese, olive, oil, spices, and cream
You get a delicious Onion Quiche.
Like my brother onion may be vulgar, smelly, and bizarre.
Yet, like my brother an onion can become a work of art
An art piece filled with creativity and cleverness.

Brotherly Thoughts
By Ashley Miura

Sometimes when I look at an orange,
I think what an underrated fruit.
They’re no one’s favorite, not even mine.
They are sweet and sour
Juicy and messy
But they can be enjoyed
In a variety of ways
My brother is like that
Sweet when he wants to be
Sour because he antagonizes me
In the way only a brother could
Juicy because of his full personality
Messy, like all brothers are
And, most importantly, he and I can enjoy
Time together in a variety of ways.

Blood and Beets Go Together
By Gigi Murray

Beets are a family delicacy,
Few people eat them the way my mother and I do,
Sliced and firm from the can,
Drowning in mayonnaise.

Few people know how beets can stain,
and dye your fingers and your tongue red,
until only your teeth remain pure.
I don’t mind the bloody, beet-stained smile,
That I flash at the world.

I wonder…

Can people smell the sweet, pickled
aroma lingering in the back of my mouth?
Stains that never seem to wash out,
Smelling sour on the breath of adolescence,
Embarrassment lingers with family tradition.

I don’t love beets,
but I eat them anyways.
This is my attitude towards you.

A Poem Modeled on Wing Tek Lum’s “Filial Thoughts”
By Rachel Tamashiro

I am sitting in my house
watching my mother make stir-fry,
The bok choy sitting on the cutting board
Its strong roots and delicate leaves

Bok choy has a bitter and tangy taste
Can be difficult to chew
Must be complimented with savory tastes

I cringe when I eat a bad piece

But when I add savory flavors
Like thinly-sliced, rare, beef
The dish becomes better,
the taste becomes manageable

Although it’s traditional
I don’t always like it
But I hope one day,
I will come to love it, as well as you.

A Poem Modeled on Wing Tek Lum’s “Filial Thoughts”
By Jocelyn Yee

Potatoes grow underground
Surrounded by dirt and rocks that can easily damage it
Once you harvest it you need to wash and cleanse it in order for it to be
With the proper preparation it can be incorporated in any dish
like you it adapts to its surroundings
Once stripped of its harsh beginning
People realize it’s endless potential and they love it even more.
This is how I see you.

My Onion
By Aly Char

I love you, I always loved you,
But you are like an onion.
It takes time to peel away at each layer you have,
To reach deep in your mind,
To get you to open up to me.
It is frustrating, yes, and sometimes you make me cry,
But do I love you any less? No.
And as I peel away layer by layer,
All I desire is to be close to you.
You may push me away because of your astringency,
But I remain steadfast.
Never will your sharpness keep me from you
For you are my onion: potent but strong.

A Simple Breakfast
By Peach Charoenchaikij

I woke up from the noise from the kitchen
One eye open,
It is 5:45 in the morning.
Still early I thought
What is that noise?
Two eyes open,
Now it is 6:00.

I follow the smell into the kitchen
I saw a plate
A plate of simple breakfast
A pancake in the middle
Too plain
She handed me the maple syrup
Sweet, taste better

To the right is a sunny side up egg
Still warm and soft

On the far left located three pieces of bacon
Look a little hard but crispy

I finished the whole plate
I felt her sincere going down my throat
It filled my stomach.

Now I know
Only you are willing to wake up early
Only you will make me breakfast
Only you can make it taste just right
Only I know you
Because I tasted it.

Born Lucky
By Taylor DeMotta

We are sitting together
Side by side
Listening to my temples being rubbed by an old and gentle Thai woman
I listen to the woman breathing
She sighs
Letting out her grievances and disappointments
She grew up in Thailand
Remaining a masseuse her whole life
I look up at her sweet, pleasant expression and behind her eyes I see the
Growing up in the slums of Thailand
Working day by day to feed her three children
She takes it in everyday
But it never gets better
Outside it is loud and dusty
I can hear you snoring beside me
Another women is massaging your knotted neck
You are so relaxed
We are so lucky
You and I
To be able to parade, mother and daughter, in the home we take for granted
Suddenly I glance over to your warm face
Two mellow and jade cucumbers lay relaxed on your honey colored lids
They lay there moist with a gentle touch
to your delicate skin
A loud crunch and a delightful taste
Never again
Will I be born this lucky

Bittersweet Love
By Kailee Kau

As I look upon this field of green
gazing at the array of colors and textures each fruit share.
Bursting open each fruit tasting the assortment of pungent flavors.
The tiny, luscious green bush in the corner
with a bright orange circular object scattered
I recall as a tangerine.

As I burst open each tangerine
tasting the sweet and sour juices
trickling down my arms.
Thinking of this fruit.
You remind me of a tangerine.
Can be sweet, can be sour.
Sometimes smooth and sometimes bumpy.

Just like you,
the sweetest one out of the bunch.
But sometimes,
the one and only sour tangerine in the patch.
Days with you can go by smooth and sometimes bumpy.
Most of all,
I love you more than little Cuties.

The Ultimate Mask
By Jasmine Kropik

As a child, I despised onions
Simply the thought of them made me cringe
How one raw bite can pierce your tongue like a million swords
And even the slightest touch of the tongue
Fills you up with regret
I know the taste means no harm
But it certainly does me no good
Seasoned and cooked just right
Its pungency becomes much more enjoyable

I have grown to like onions more now
I may not eat and see them all the time
But I know they are still and will always be around
This is how I see you
Peeling back its bitter layers I begin to cry
For the core becomes the unexpected
I am surprised to find on Christmas day
Just a delicate, raw heart wanting to be loved
Forever I’ll remember what you mean to me.

Strawberry Memories
By Stephanie Misaki

On a hot summer day
The strawberry I am eating
Has a dark red skin, with its little seeds,
And sweet insides.
The delicious taste of the refreshing strawberry
Reminds me of your presence
Like the strawberry, you are very sweet and kind
You help others and never cease to lend a helping hand
But while I bite it a seed gets stuck in my teeth
And like the memorable seed from the strawberry
Your lessons and love sticks with me.

By Yijia Sun

I miss my family at anytime

I miss the embrace of my grandpa
He is a kind and cute old man
I always coquetry with him
I like to lie in his arms
Even though I am no longer a kid.

I miss the feeling when all family members got together
In all festival, my family got together, ate dinner, and told with each other
But now, I cannot join them, I only can see them on the computer

I miss the feeling of talk with my family
When I had something that let me feel sad, confusion, unhappy
Or I do not know how to solved them
I will told my family
They always listened me and teach me how to do
But now, I only can depend on myself when everything was happened.
Some times, I feel alone and helpless.
In those days, I more miss my family.

But in my heart, the missing let me obtain courage
I remember,
Family is my brace
Because family is always stay with me
No matter what happens

You Are Like A Rose
By Mandy Xu

Sitting in the garden
on a fountain
surrounded by roses
I think of you.

So beautiful and strong
with petals coming in various colors
so smooth, so soft at a touch

When I look around,
you are everywhere,
covering the arch ways
with your green leaves
and beautiful colors

You bring life everywhere.
The koi fish swim with joy in the fountain
because of your love.

When walking around the garden
admiring your colors
I come across a small gazebo.

In the gazebo,
you cover a swing
where I see children swinging
and singing with joy

You fill the garden
with a sweet fragrance,
with love,
with happiness,
with laughter.

Your garden is where I go
when I am feeling down.
You make me feel better

You are like a rose
that brightens up my world


By Tessa Antonio-Tolentino

Your eyes
are as deep as the ocean,
colorful like a peacock.
One second they are blue, another green,
then everything in between.
It’s like seeing the galaxy.
I can feel everything you are feeling
just by looking into your eyes.

Your smile
may not be perfect,
but it’s all I ever need to be happy.
It’s as bright as the sun that shines
above us through the clouds.
Your laugh
is like a hyena’s.
Constant and loud,
yet it has that certain tone that
it is contagious.
Your happiness is all I need.

you think of those around you first,
you are like Scooby and Shaggy,
eating everything and still want more.
You constantly go through trouble, but still have time to smile,
you don’t see yourself as anything written above
that is why
you are the epitome of perfection in my eyes
and you are my idol.

Free Verse
By Karli DeRego

I put down the phone
After hearing the news my world stopped
My heart took a daring jump and fell freely
Frigid tears stung my warm face
Once he left, he took my happiness with him
The once bright, clear sky of my life is
Murky with my sadness
My life, as I know it, is over

A fortnight ago,
I felt broken hearted
A ray of hope appeared in my sky
I realized that I don’t need him
There was so much more to life than love
Instead of regret, I felt satisfaction
I was different

A month ago,
I felt broken hearted
A fortnight ago,
I glimpsed hope
He realized that he needs me back
I don’t care
It’s funny to think that break ups are different for
Men and Women
I laugh at him and
Reject him as
I put down the phone

And Our Dance Begins
By Kaui Ho

I wax the fiberglass-covered surface
The grains of sand brush and cling
Salty raw sweeps through my lungs
The stretched clouds of white wash crumbles and fades
The sun gradually peels through the horizon
While I dive into the fifty shades of blue
The current drags my fragile body underneath
But the board pulls me through its grasp
Chasing the eager beads of air
I paddle towards the almost tangible sky
Lit by flames of light, an illuminating panorama
My limbs tangle in the watery vines
And our dance begins.

I’ll Be Forgotten
By Iris Nagai

The lost shoe in your closet
The pen without a cap
Those days you walked away
And never once looked back
That one book in a library
The earring you once had
Leaving me alone seems
To be the latest fad

The pencil in your backpack
The sock that used to match
I wish that our relationship
Was something I could patch

But now I am alone,
Forgotten in your past
Cluttered with the memories
I’d always thought would last

By Neewen Navarrete

Rising in the East,
Creating shadows in its wake,
Glowing, shining, burning,
The Sun sheds light
On the world,
And chases the darkness away.

Discerned at twilight,
Dispelling the nighttime’s darkness,
Glimm’ring, gleaming, beaming;
The Moon gives shape
To the tides
Changing in time with the seasons.

Resting above us,
Ying and Yang in eternal Dance.
Radiating; Fading;
The Sun, the Moon,
From the skies
They watch us as we slowly fade…

Last Chance
By Lanisa Sekigawa

It’s growing dark
But the sun is still up
Catching my eyes
Blinding me for a moment

My hand sticks to my racket
While beads of sweat sting my eyes
I’m tired, exhausted
But the game continues on

I’ve missed countless volleys
Lost so many points
I’ve double faulted serve after serve,
Helping the other team win

Their cheering is annoying
Too much noise for us
My partner and I
Reaching the breaking point

We’ll lose. I know it
I’ve failed too much
To come back
And it’s all my fault

Last thoughts of desperate hope
Lift my spirits, if only a little
But watching the ball hit the net
Breaks the remaining pieces of my spirit

Talk story

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