Granny’s Bequeathal / 〈阿嬤的手尾〉陳意榕

A ring,
quietly stays
on mom's little finger, passing down
a tale of frugal living
I wonder: how could it be told once and again
without making us feel bored?


Painful but eager,
when seeing her babies come down with illness,
she did blanket searches everywhere.
Knocking on every door of clinic at midnights,
she apologized for her rudeness by showing courtesy.

四界走傱 (tsáu-tsông)

Living on a tight budget, 
she compensated the big expenses for meals
by knitting sweaters,
one piece after another.
When grandma came back home
with tons of Logan in big baskets,
her children jostling and shoving 
fought for their way to get a bite.
Eventually, the chaos was settled down
by announcing the prize of victory.
The winner was granted access to the fruit,
rejoiced over a mouthful of sweetness.


Saving up every penny and cent,
she worked very hard
in case of rainy days.
The most extravagant items
all handed down to her babies,
without uttering any complaints,
she was the one who suffered from all the hardship.


*The Original Taiwanese Poem entitled “Granny’s Bequeathal” was published in Issue 24 (the final issue, out of print) of Chinese modern poetry Quarterly, February 2020.


Yi Jung (Jolene) Chen

What is the significance of the piece to you?

The significance of the piece is that it is written in memory of my beloved granny, who passed away about 19 years ago. She had raised me up until I was six years old. I really miss her.

What is the significance of the form? 

The significance of the form is that it was originally written in the form of Taiwanese language. It is a dialect that we speak often at home. My granny is an expert in using Taiwanese slangs and singing Taiwanese folk songs, which are commonly seen in Taiwanese poems from time to time. To sum up, Taiwanese poems can be deemed as one of the most precious and valuable culture heritages that we should pass down to our next generation.  

What was your process for creating this piece? 

The process of creating this piece involved a nostalgic feeling toward the good old times and I would like to pay tribute to the hardship my ancestors had been through to blaze a trail for us as well. In brief, motivations came first and then the enlightenment from the narratives told by my granny and mom unfolded the story within the poem.

Besides teaching pupils of learning difficulties at Dounan Elementary School of Taiwan, Yi Jung (Jolene) Chen used to write scripts for illustrated picture books and poems in English, Chinese and Taiwanese language as well.  Provided given the opportunity, she would like to have her poems published by reliable journals and shares her with people around the globe.

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