Asian nannies and white babies

that 70s mom

Asian nannies and white babies
Nokyoung Xayasane

Whenever I see Asian nannies
pushing prams containing
gurgling white babies,
I think of my mom.

She must’ve wanted to be
with me too
instead of working at
a sweatshop.
They paid her by the piece.
The faster she sewed,
the more money she made.
She must’ve wanted to
stay with me after school
instead of leaving for work at 2:45 pm
and coming home after midnight.
Sometimes if I stayed up
really late, I would catch a glimpse
of her walking by my bedroom door.

I wonder about those Asian nannies.
I bet their children stay with family members
during the day,
or they ask their eldest to babysit
the smaller ones.
They’ll do this from Monday to Friday
so they could push a white woman’s baby
in an immaculate stroller
through the lush greenery of a city park.
The flowers there
bloom in the gardens.
They’ll sing a lullaby to these white babies
while the sun hangs overhead,
and they’ll see their own child’s face
staring up at them.
They’ll rock these white children to sleep,
and they’ll wonder if their child
has had anything to eat.

Many nights,
my mom would come home,
her face ragged,
her hands raw,
her back sore
from bending over,
sewing endlessly,
the sound of machines whirling
in the background.
Her foot worked the pedal
of those sewing machines
in crammed quarters.
The women in the park
push those prams
up lush green hills.

This is the sacrifice of mothers:
despair and survival
and unyielding love.

language would never be a barrier for her

Thailand, 1984

Thailand, 1984

the things she carried
Nokyoung Xayasane

I remember what my mother told me
when I was eight years old.
One day, we decided to exchange
a Super Nintendo console for the
one that came with the Donkey Kong game.

In the Zellers parking lot,
she gave me the box to carry.
I walked with that box in my tiny hands —
my mother by my side.
The box grew heavier with each step.
And the closer we got to the electronics section,
the heavier it became.

Meh, I said,
(‘Meh’ is Lao for mom)
Meh, I said, can you carry it for me?
I gave her my most helpless look.
She looked at me then and said,
(‘Da deep’ means ‘little eyes’)
you’re just afraid.

And yes, I suppose I was.
We walked up to the Zellers employee —
a shaggy-haired fella
who stood behind the counter
organizing double A batteries.

My mother stood by my side, wordless.
She didn’t speak English that well,
but even at eight, I knew that language
would never be a barrier for her.
I want to get the one with Donkey Kong, I whispered.

Afterwards, we walked outside to the car.
The sky was this purple and pink colour —
the same sky I’d paint in my art class years later.
I held the new system in my hands —
this one included the game.
I played Donkey Kong all summer long,
and if you were wondering,
I can lift that console quite easily now.

(June 2015)

to declare the pain of our deliverance

Golden hour in Southampton, Ontario (Photo credit: nokyoungxayasane / Instagram)

Golden hour in Southampton, Ontario (Photo credit: nokxayasane/Instagram)

Liberation, Abena Busia

We are all mothers
and we have that fire within us,
of powerful women
whose spirits are so angry
we can laugh beauty into life
and still make you taste
the salt tears of our knowledge—
For we are not tortured
we have seen beyond your lies and disguises,
and we have mastered the language of words,
we have mastered speech
And know
we have also seen ourselves
We have stripped ourselves raw
and naked piece by piece until our flesh lies flayed
with blood on our own hands
What terrible thing can you do to us
which we have not done to ourselves?
What can you tell us
which we didn’t deceive ourselves with
a long time ago?
You cannot know how long we cried
until we laughed
over the broken pieces of our dreams.
shattered us into such fragments
we had to unearth ourselves piece by piece,
to recover with our own hands such unexpected relics
even we wondered
how we could hold such treasure.
Yes, we have conceived
to forge our mutilated hopes
into the substance of visions
beyond your imaginings
to declare the pain of our deliverance
So do not even ask,
do not ask what is we are labouring with this time.
Dreamers remember their dreams
when we are disturbed—
And you shall not escape
what we will make
of the broken pieces of our lives.


The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (2000)