poems were originally written in Chinese etched on the barracks of the
detention center. The English translations were done by Him Mark Lai
and Genny Lim: authors of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants
on Angel Island, 1910-1940.
Note the pain and sadness that flowed from their heart to their hand
and from there to the once bare walls of Angel Island.
These translations are directly translated from the book.
gold and silver of America is very appealing. Jabbing an awl into
the thigh in search of glory, I embarked on the journey. Not only
are my one-thousand pieces of gold already depleted, but my countenance
is blackened. It is surely for the sake of the family.
I had intended to come to America last year. Lack of money delayed
me until early autumn. It was on the day that the Weaver Maiden
met the cowherd that I took passage on the President Lincoln. I
ate wind and tasted waves for more than twenty days. Fortunately,
I arrived safely on the American continent. I thought I could land
in a few days. How was I to know I would become a prisoner suffering
in the wooden building? The barbarian's abuse is really difficult
to take. When my family's circumstances stir my emotions, double
stream of tears flow. I only wish I can land in San Francisco soon,
thus sparing me this additional sorrow here.
The night is cool as I lie stiff on the steel bunk. Before the window
the moon lady shines on me. Bored, I get up and stand beneath the
cold window. Sadly, I count the time that's elapsed. It is already
mid-autumn. We should all honor and enjoy her. But I have not prepared
even the most trifling gift and I feel embarrassed.
Permission to display
give by the University of Washington Press