"Everything I Wanted"

for Daniel

Grace Lau

Grace (she/her) is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian writer living in Toronto. Her debut poetry collection, The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak, is forthcoming in May 2021 from Guernica Editions. Her work is published or forthcoming in Grain Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry, and elsewhere.

“This poem was written in response to ‘Everything I Wanted,’ a song by Billie Eilish about her brother, Finneas. Billie Eilish was a beacon for me during a year in which I learned how to love others in a more expansive way than I was used when to growing up. I saw relationships, and my role in them, differently. By reflecting on this song through writing, I was able to unlock a part of myself that I’ve never been able to access.”

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Like a good sister
I always left you
all the chocolate and cakes
and Mom’s lamingtons.

But we both knew
I was only a sister
who didn’t have
a sweet tooth.

You were my best friend
one day out of every week, our day
of unrest
when I couldn’t bear the singing

and the sermons and the smiles.
We’d kick rocks
around Chinatown instead,
trusting no God

to visit
a ghost town.
        Even loneliness
refused us.

We lived in this house of pink
carpets, pink walls, pink cheeks, pink palms.
Our father
the painter.

Isn’t it beautiful
how a bruise unfurls
into violets
like a sunset blush?

In Chinese,
明 is to understand,
a clarity. The word is made
of day and night.

I wonder if Dad meant
to name us 明慧 and 明仁
as if he knew
we wouldn’t share

much else.
But even now, we still share the light
of both sun and moon
and that is something

close to understanding.

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