Kooi Chock Glendinning (The Unacceptable)
A selection of poems from The Unacceptable (by Kooi Chock Glendinning)
Their British protector then let them down, they ran away for a while
As the Japanese were murderous and torturous,
My grandparents and parents were thankfully spared,
By a kind Japanese pretty lady, who protected and harboured them
From harm and despair, from war atrocities and rape
Then thankfully the British came back to end the war,
Hiroshima burnt in horror and in defeat
The Japanese's wicked ways now in tatters,
Their buildings and lives all in cinders
At last surrendered in fear and humiliation,
Strangely many Hara kiris were committed
More unnecessary lives wasted in despair.
My parents rejoiced, at last... no more war, no more war, please,
Normal life they desperately needed.
Then they bore 8 siblings, with me the sixth child
So out of school, what shall I do?
Get married and have lots of children?
As there would be no further education nor even work
But I was only just 18
I needed to work or study for a trade, but all work was being given to the Malays
As all university places, I was born of the wrong race!!!
We had to run, like our forefathers did, we needed to escape to another country
Where our race would not be a problem, and to work and lived like them
But where could we run to? Where would accept us?
Who would give us a normal life without trouble?
Who would accept us for what we were born with?
Who would accept us for what we are?
Do we have to repeat history like what our grandparents did?
To keep running as no one would want us
Yellow skins and slitty eyes
Although we were very able, too able that was also our faults
Practical hands and very quick minds, we would toil until the orange sun died
Rise before the yellow rays were out. But no one cared; No one would dare
To give us a place to rests; as they were scared our hard working ethos
Would take their lands away!
Even though I was born there!
England, my once protectorate
Francis Light, St Xavier, where have you gone?
Why have you left us in the lurge?
Why have you abandoned us? To the mercy of the Malays,
You elected them to lead us
But you did not ensure they were the right leaders
You did not ensure they treated everybody, every race with equality
You have abandoned us to the wolves
You have come, conquered, played us around and
Then chucked us back as if we were trash; with no turning back
No one ever comes back to ask how we are doing; no one cares if we are being mistreated
As you have finished having your fun with us; taken what you wanted from us
We are rubbish that you got rid of; toys to be left in the dump; to be forgotten
Your memory still fills the stifled air and your statues still stand proud on the Penang Island
Looking down on us with a knightly bravery and fatherly concerns
But now you no longer want to protect us.
We have to run again, like our grandparents did
I, the sixth child of an eight siblings of a second generation of Chinese immigrant, born in British Malaya 1953.
Tears of fright...
I was only just 19, never left the town,
Forced to leave my country,
My family, my friends
Like my grandparents from mainland China many years ago
History was repeating itself
Would any country accept us?
Do we have to keep running?
If only we were like them,
Lucky to be born of the right race
Where they were accepted where ever they were
And not having to keep running
Clutching my mother’s good luck charm, I prayed that my jumbo jet would not crash
And would take me to somewhere who would accept me
I cried most of the time, missing them already
Sausages stink with mashed potatoes, my stomach churned with unfamiliarities
I needed my nasi lemak, my Hokkien mee and the red hot chilies
Infused in aromatic creamy coconut milk
My already mixed cultural tastes, Oriental, Indian and Malay influences
My mother country, I prayed that maybe someday
They will be contented
To let us live, as they live themselves
Maybe one day I would return
Maybe one day they would treat us well
As I still have friends and relatives
Who I dearly miss so very much
So reluctantly and in tears, from Malaysia to England, some 5 thousand miles apart
Will London accept me or will I have to run again?
Dear mummy, daddy, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends
Cold and dreary the chilled winter air
Grey and still with leafless trees
Eerily tall and spindly churches
With cold heavy stones
That with-stand the fickle seasons
A coach came to fetch us from Heathrow airport
About 20 of us all young and frightened
All about 19 years old, all Chinese Malaysian
Running away from racial discrimination
Hoping for a better home
A better acceptance
So no matter what, I was the unacceptable
No matter how I tried, they had abuse their powers
As they could, as no one dared to question them
The career ladder I tried to climb
The higher I get the more they shot me down
The more I fight the more they bullied
My 38 years of career ended in cinders
All those taxes I paid and am still paying
I was still being discriminated against
They told me to go back to where I came from
They also did not want me there; so no where do I belong
They only want me to be the low class worker
They only want me to do what they consider the low grade job
So as soon as I got up to anywhere near the top
They would shoot me down like I was a threat
She then mocked my English
She told me that I have been here for so long and I still could not speak like them
That I was so different from them
So she tried so hard to find faults with me
She smiled when my colleagues made serious mistakes
And made excuses to get them on her side
When I made a tiny mistake
She hurriedly disciplined me straight away
She jumped to the conclusion with false accusations
She attributed every bad work as mine
She listened and waited for me to stumble as if I would not be able to finish a sentence in the English language, my third language
When I stayed quiet and let the others have their voice she assumed that I could not speak English
She encouraged me to get help from my husband, a native,
And then compared my English to his first language
And disciplined me for being different
My dyslexia did not help; slow and stumbling my words get jumbled
All the numbers jumbled in horror and in fright
My confidence were in tatters, smashed to pieces
As she relentlessly bullied me to this small.
Nothing stirred in my little body, now heavy with sadness, no makeup, no colour added, gaunt from a night of crying, my eyes puffy, my skin gaunt and pale, all signs of life departed
Neglected it is drab in wrinkled tiger stripped wandsee, their teeth glaringly annoying, eyes marbled in between the stubby nose
The whiskers fanning out what little life left in me
The tiger's head in the hood hovering over my puffy face
My hair in messy disarray, no desire to get out of bed
My duvet is my only comfort, soft, warm and parasitic
My world now is without stimulation, paralytic I might as well stayed,
Lifeless is the only attraction, my limbs curled up in an embryonic position
Being sucked back to where it came from 58 long years ago
Without a choice I was dragged out screaming
With no perception, no inkling, but just a desire to get rid of me
I did not ask for this suffering, to be bullied, to be harassed
To be the unacceptable, to be born like this
My colleagues stop answering my phones and emails
My now ex employers is ex communicated, they have barred me from work
So I created a hole to bury myself, exterminate all friendships
To avoid shame and awkward questions, recluse is the only solace
A few days ago I was in-charged, I loved my job
Stressed out I was every day, adrenaline pumped into my elated head
Standing tall and proud I managed and led
Today, I am still in bed, rereading and rereading the final dismissal letter
I felt betrayed, I felt raging anger, I felt sadden
They had abused my trust; they had ganged, plotted and framed me out.
Every shot of anger, spewed out of my tear logged eyes
Dropping like ferocious daggers, down the steep tumbling falls
Pooling on my heaving chest
Red hot thunder roared inside my painful head, bursting with million questions
Wondering what were the reasons, how evil my employers were
Framed me out of my 38 years of employment,2 years before my retirement
Cheated me out of my normal pension, denied me a dignified exit to my beloved career,
Denied me a proper farewell to my friends, my staff and my colleagues
They have framed me out of my life, my friends and my almost everything
Kooi Chock Glendinning
My poems are about my life in general, starting from my grandparents’ escapes from China's dictatorial-ship during the 1800s. They ran away from the war torn country separately, to then meet and marry on the west coast of Malaya. They managed to settle down and cultivated a comfortable living in a coconut plantation off the Coast of Penang Island, where my father and his sister, my 7 siblings and I were born.
They did live peacefully for a while, with my granddad buying and selling Chinese goods to the local people. British were there colonising Malaya. Then in the Second World War the Japanese invaded Malaya but my family was saved by a friend's Japanese wife. The British then abandoned us and gave the rule to a Malay ruler. The aftermath of war was a turbulent period. The upheaval of the Japanese occupation was exacerbated by rice shortages, racial conflict, and a crisis in Anglo-Malay relations over the Malayan Union constitution, whose provisions to reduce the sultan's authority and to offer citizenship to non-Malays provoked unprecedented opposition from Malays, who feared being overwhelmed by the Chinese.
Life for us Chinese became difficult as the Malays looked after themselves and dictated special privileges to the Malays. My siblings and I suffered the consequences of the biased rule. I was born in the year of our current Queen Elizabeth the II’s coronation.
My parents protected me from the Chinese communist by sending me many miles away from our little Chinese Village to an English convent catholic school. It was a confusing time for me as I was more or less brain washed with the bible and being the first in the village to learn English. My parents understandably allowed me to go to the churches as well as our temples.
As all privileges went to the Malays I and most other young Chinese had no choice but to find alternative ways of life, by leaving our families behind to travel to overseas seeking basic human rights and equality. History was repeating itself and I came over to England at the end of 1972, at the age of 19 to be trained by the NHS to be a nurse.
Six years later, I swapped profession to become a biomedical scientist and has worked in the NHS for the past 41 years. Life on the bench level was fine but as a Manager I was bullied and harassed for 10 years and was actually being framed out of the job. Trying to pay my mortgage I survived by working through agency while I still spend a lot of time fighting for my rights to be treated as an equal unsuccessfully.
I have resigned to putting my experience into writing and has written some screen scripts out of my miseries and hope that the next generations can learn from my tribulations.
I met my husband in the Sahara desert and we have 4 beautiful children.