A Migrant Mother’s Poem: “My Child, I Am Sorry”

As the school year begins in China, the children of migrant workers face a harsh reality: without an urban household registration (hukou), they will not be able to go to school. Illegal schools for migrant children have even been demolished in recent years. The central government recently announced that it will unify the hukou system, but this “will not represent progress if the way public services are doled out is not changed,” reports Caixin.

This spring, Weibo user 彭远文 shared a poem, said to be written by a mother living in Beijing without the right hukou, at the end of the spring semester:

My child
I am sorry
Looking at your inquisitive eyes
I am disheartened and ashamed
Your heart is so pure
How do I begin to tell you?
Your smile speaks of kindness
How do I dare tell you
Tell you that this city won’t let you to go to school
What kind of scene is this?
What should I do?
I have been choking on my words for days
How do I explain to you,
Explain that this country is not ours
Or rather, that we are not of this country
You may not yet fully understand the heaviness of hardship
But I know
The seeds of discrimination have already been planted in your subconscious
The whole world seems to know China’s power
Yet an ordinary mother is powerless to send her innocent child to school
How absurd this is
Anxiety and restlessness
Grief and pain
Have become the labels of motherhood
After sleepless nights
After thinking of every possibility
I still can’t find a way for you to study by your mother’s side
My child
I am sorry

孩子
对不起
面对你求知的大眼睛
我是如此的沮丧和愧疚
你的心是那么纯净
叫我如何开口?
你的笑脸分明写着善良
叫我如何敢开口
开口告诉你这个城市不允许你读书了
这是怎样的场面
要我如何是好
如刺梗喉已多日
我如何跟你讲清楚
说这个国家不是我们的
还是我们不是这个国家的
也许如今的你还不太懂得沉重的难过
可我知道
这在前意识里已经给你种下了歧视的种子
中国之强大似乎世人尽知了
却让一个普通的母亲为了无辜的孩子正常上学而无奈与焦虑
这是多么荒唐的事情
焦虑不安
悲愤伤痛
成为母亲的标签
彻夜无眠
竭尽思虑
却未能找到一个让未成年的你在母亲身边继续读书的路
孩子
对不起

Via CDT Chinese. Translation by Cindy.