My Ship Does Not Need a Helmsman

Lau, Alan Chong

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Apr-15-1996


An old, man--a Chinese immigrant to America--is dying in Chinatown, "a sick dog" who yearns for his homeland and for the wife "who died waiting / in the home of my province . . . . " He can't relate to the young political activists who want him to join in protest against "this gray life"--a life which has never really engaged him. He imagines his ashes being carried by the waterways to join the ashes of his wife; she is the helmsman who will lead him back to comfort and joy.


An atmosphere of sadness and decay pervades this rendering of the immigrant experience. Also well conveyed are the importance of memories for those who are lonely and old, and the gap between immigrant generations. The poet is Asian-American.


Introduction by Garrett Hongo.

Primary Source

The Open Boat


Doubleday: Anchor

Place Published

New York




Garrett Hongo