Three poems by Ken Chau

The Invitation

for Michelle

Make happy those who are near,
and those who are far will come.

Chinese proverb

You arrived
in 1994

our first banana
yellow on the outside white on the inside

a Melbourne girl
an unwritten daughter of the 29th generation

upon the yellow
earth of Frankston beach

who runs through the blue
of sea and sky and waves

at the seagulls
in a language apart

from English
or Chinese

all the Chinese

daughters of the sea
to come


to be free
for a secondborn
one hundred years.

39 jiggles

when I drink tea
bag tea
I always jiggle
the tea

bag 39 times
exactly ensuring
the right strength
each time

I can’t jiggle 40
times (or any number
in the 40s) 40
being bad luck

in Chinese
even though it’s not
tea I’m jiggling


Buying a House

Ignoring centuries of Chinese superstition and the potential wrath of my grandmother, we decided to buy a house in Mount Waverley at 14 Avondale Grove. Number 4 is bad enough: 4 sounds like “death” in Chinese but 14 is even worse… “definitely going to die”. The omens weren’t good. The day before, we looked at another house with the number 4 with a black cat slinking around during our inspection. We made an offer for number 14 on the 4th day of the 10th month knowing full well that 4 + 10 = 14. Fortunately, it was the 10th day of the 8th month on the Chinese calendar (8 considered lucky), otherwise we would have died there and then just for making the offer. Our offer was rejected, and though disappointed, we consoled ourselves with the fact that the eventual buyers were doomed, my grandmother would be happy, she would grant us eternal life, and we  were definitely not going to die.

Ken Chau is an Australian Born Chinese (ABC) poet living in Melbourne. His poems have been published in Australia, China, France, Hong Kong, India, UK and USA, and in the anthologies Growing up Asian in Australia (Black Inc., 2008, ed. Alice Pung) and The Best Australian Poems 2012 (Black Inc., 2012, ed. John Tranter). 



One comment

  • Enjoyed these poems. The feelings of people with a multicultural upbringing, are well captured.
    ‘Buying a House’ is rich with gentle humour. While the context is Chinese, the ideas will resonate with Indians and other Asians.

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