My older sister, Ntxhiav  (L) with a cousin

Vientiane, Laos,  1963


I have always loved to play with words, and I write poetry for my own enjoyment. My very traditional metrical poems are mostly about love, my beautiful wife and my dear family. However, I found that they appeal to many readers of this website. “The Lost Beloved” was a favourite and has been reprinted a number of times in various publications. 


I’ve included here, poems which I wrote during lonely hours I spent in the USA in 2007. They read like personal poetry, but they are not. They are inspired by sentiments and situations based on: watching tearjerker Korean movies, listening to songs, reading poems by other established or aspiring writers, thinking of home, watching Hmong at New Year celebrations and talking to young people about their feelings concerning life and love. 


I hope you enjoy reading them.

Lub Siab Tsis Teb

By Gary Yia Lee

Tsis xav hais tias ntau niaj ntau xyoo tau nrhau tag
Los kuv tseem xav txog koj ua kuv siab tsis kag
Tsis xav tau tias ntau caij ntau xyoo tau nrhau los
Ua cas kuv thiaj tseem nco koj ua hnub ua hmo tos

Tsis paub hais tias yog kuv hlub koj tsis ua siab coob
Tsam no kuv puas yuav nug lub siab tsis txawj thoob
Vim nug lub siab los lub siab teb tsis cuag ncua
Nug lub tsws los lub tsws tsis paub teb kom txua

Yuav ua zaj twg koj thiaj rov tau los rau kuv ntsib
Vim lub caij tsis ua kom wb kev hlub rov los sib pib
Yuav ua li cas koj thiaj yuav hais lus rau kuv hnov
Vim lub caij nyoog ntsiag to tsis ua ib suab ib xov

Yuav hais npaum cas wb kev plees thiaj li nyob ruaj
Kuv nug lub caij los lub caij teb tsis tau kom muaj
Yuav hais li cas thiaj rov pom wb kev hlub kev hluas
Kuv nug npaum twg los lub nyoog tsis teb tsis xyuas

Tej zaum vim wb tau tso kev sib hlub tseg tiag lawm
Nrhiav npaum cas los lub caij nyoog teb tsis tawm
Vim wb tau quas wb kev plees kev raug tiag sis hlo
Rov tshawb li cas los lub caij lub nyoog thiaj ntsiag to

The Lost Beloved

By Gary Yia Lee

You are born like a young orphaned sparrow
You want to fly high above the green trees
But your wings are small, and your eyes dewy
You find the going rough and your steps slow

Your mother is too frail to care for you alone
You do not know your father who has long gone
You have no one to lean on when you stall
Only your mother picks you up when you fall

What you will grow up to be, you do not know
You suffer much but you try hard not to show
Yet all through these years you have survived
You are tough and you are fighting to stay alive.

Your young life you spend in a little grass house
Perched on a mountain top covered in misty haze
It’s cold at night as the wind blows through the grass
The house timber is old and the walls have cracks

You have no blankets to cover your small frame
Your clothes are thin and your mattress the same
Your bed is hard, your pillow only a pile of rags
Your shirt is adorn but your pants look like bags

Your women raise every day before dawn to cook
From dawn to dusk, they feed, they work and toil
Your men, they labor, they wait and they look.
Your poor children, they play but only with soil.

Your ancestors, you believe they are in Heaven
But where are they really now, your brethren?
You give them food, you make them offering
But they are quiet, they do not see your suffering.

Some of your people live on strangers’ charity
Wondering how they can ever keep up to form
Yet you are like the lone flower under a canopy
The single palm tree battling in a heavy storm

You want a home, you look for somewhere bright.
You are cold in the shadow, you need some light
You want a tiny patch to wake up on at dawn
Yet you can find little, little to call your own.

Many of your sons have lost their ways, undone.
Your daughters are forgotten, brushed aside, alone
Your elders are confused, with traditions denied
Yet they keep going, for fear they will all soon die.

You have no past, your past is only in your mind
You search for a future, hoping it will be kind
To your men, their wives and their many children.
But they only have the present, a present ill-begotten.

Your traditions are rich, but you have lost many.
You feel scared, you know soon no one will know any.
Your young prefer the odd customs of foreigners
Soon they will to each other become but strangers.

You keep calling everyone to stay together, to unite.
You want the flock unbroken, the doors to shut tight.
But the floods have broken through all your fences
You call for help, but no one comes to your defences.

Where to from here, what can you do, you ask?
Why has God given you such a heavy task?
Are you alone in your struggles and will you survive?
On Reckoning Day, how many of you will arrive?

Before parting, my good people, I want you to know
Sad is my heart, dark is my soul, so filled with sorrow
But so happy, so grateful I am to be part of you
Your love is deep so much like the oceans blue
I thank you for being so welcoming and so true

The world and its unyielding time continue to spin
I want to say: “do not to give up, and never give in
You have the strength that comes from deep within
Keep up your good cause, hang on to your strong will.
Do it, do it and one day your dreams may all be real”.

To a Distant Muse

By Gary Yia Lee

You are my inspiration with lofty sights
And bountiful ideas that caress the soul
And take the mind to new heights,
Giving it strength to be beautiful,
To hear music so soft and so light.

I see you as pure and divine,
For you help bring me the sunshine,
And the smile on your wondrous face
Renders life so much easier to embrace
When you give all without haste.

You are like the wings of life
That make the flying a soaring experience
And the climb easy, without resistance.
You inspire, you give great thoughts
To me where before there well was naught.

Thank you once more for your light
Leading me by the hand along the night
Under your torch beaming from on-high
You help me find the will and the resilience
To carry on in my weary existence.

While You Sleep

By Gary Yia Lee

Looking at you sleep in the calm evening
I cannot but look back in humility
To the time of our very first meeting
When you were so young yet full of maturity

I took you under my wings and into my arms
I nurtured your youth and you kept me warm
You gave me hopes, you were my red rose
You brought jubilation, you gave life a purpose

We had good times, we had many memories
Of our days spent roaming in the woods
Of times we told each other our life stories
The heart breaks and the joy of childhood

As time passes, our love grows together
Two free spirits holding dear to each other
Our hearts much wiser, our steps bolder
And the good years did not make us older

When I feel the cool breeze of yesterday,
I see the fortunes that came our way
I know your hard work and your devotion
I am grateful, I am filled with elation.

Tonight I am with you and you are with me
Together we will overcome all enmity
Your love will not make my heart empty
I am all you need, you are all that I see

I would not have changed in any way
All that we have shared to this day
Anything we did I’d have done again
Over and over until life’s very end

I am thankful when I look at your tranquil face
I want to hold and keep you in my embrace
Hoping that if there really ever is a next life
You will return and be again my loving wife

Searching for the Dream

By Gary Yia Lee

Here I am, looking at you,
Young, smiling and bright
Like the shining summer dew
Drizzling in the morning light.

For one long moment we stare
Two lovers passing in the night
Wishing for the heart to dare
Longing for the soul to fly.

You are kind, you are loving
Together we grow and thrive
Our love is warm and willing
Our hearts are strong and alive

But why the good days do not last
As all too quickly time flies past?
It seems we only meet yesterday
But destiny has its separate way

Once more I stand here alone
Watching the years coming undone
But always my love remains strong
For it’s with you that I belong

But you have left me to wander
When time leaves us asunder
Here I am, searching for love anew
Striving once again to hold onto you

Grasping at the dream one last time
I want to reach for love sublime
Will you give us one more chance
So we can renew life’s lasting dance?

Time is Silent

By Gary Yia Lee

As I was looking at the cold winter rain
I asked myself many times over again
What was it that made me feel this way.
Where have all my Hmong gone today?

Had my love for them not been that dear
Had my feelings for each not been so clear
That all had to go without saying goodbye
I asked my heart but it too had no reply.

What could I have said so they would stay
Tell me what would make their hearts sway
I ask the time but it did not seem to hear
I ask the past but it pretended not to be near.

God, were you afraid to see your children cry
Perhaps you knew but did not want to say why?
I keep asking the past but it gave me no answer
The past was silent as if it had nothing to offer.

I ask History, but it too remains a mystery
Time says your people left nothing in writing
But the Heart urges me to keep on searching
Will I find you again and be out of this misery?

To Our Children

By Gary Yia Lee

On a beautiful day you suddenly appear
Knocking gently on our door, you say
“Here we are, coming from far and near.
You are our home, and with you we will stay”
Greeting your smile, quickly we all embrace
“Welcome to your home, your little place”

Your father and mother are so happy
Knowing how we are blessed and lucky
“We will make restful your every day
For you have come such a long way.
We will give you all our love and care
You will get all that we have to share”

You come down from riding on a cloud
To you all, we can now say out loud
“We are never so pleased or proud
Our home, you will become a loving part
Our family you will help make a great start.
Welcome, welcome into our waiting heart”

Why Do You Ask?

By Gary Yia Lee

You ask why I keep wanting your love
When all you can see is yourself
Young who feel like a little white dove.
And you say that when I hold you so dear
It is too much for you to accept and bear.

No, you can have it all and will get more.
But your modesty will not let you be bold
For what you have let me take and hold
Has given my life all the difference
Thanks to your generous sustenance.

Your sensitivity and wonderful nature
About life and love, young and old,
Men and women, flowers and creatures
Have carried me to a new fold
My body now strong and my mind assured.

I am no longer the humble grass trampled on
By the merciless feet of passers-by,
But a tapestry of life, a string of lullabies,
Red roses tied together by threads of wire
Scented for all and sundry to desire.

So stop wondering why I ask for you.
I seek, I call, I reach out for your fire,
For your innocence and youthful edge,
Your beauty and your knowledge.
Is not that enough why I admire?

Why must you ask what do I see
When I already know you and you me?
I see the splendor of your nights
And the red flames of your dreams.
Is not that enough why I make my plea?

Why is it that you must think
We need to know each other long
Before we can share our destiny
And convey our innermost thinking?
Or converse on a plane we enjoy doing?

I have no other I can do the talking with,
Or enjoy the soaring of my spirit
Trying out somewhere soft for a landing.
I am like the lost swallow looking
For a hollow in the tree to stay the night.

I have flown and looked far and wide.
Now I have found my nest and my furrow
In your expansive tree and your shade.
Won’t you let me dry my feathers,
Put down my wings and rest for the night?

For when the sun shines again tomorrow
I will feel strong and without sorrow.
I will be ready for the day’s new flight
And take you as my heroine and my light.
Can you see now why I want you in my life?

All Lies and Farewells?

By Gary Yia Lee

Please don’t say love is all lies and hushed whispers
When love calls from the depth of one’s longing heart
Summoning its victim to face a merciless executioner
Before tasting the ecstasy of love in one’s hungry soul
So please do not ever say it’s all lies and farewells
No, it is all desire and joy encased in jade green shells
It’s all roses and wine that’ll make life ever so full.

I know you feels unsure when you are still young
But when you are older, nothing seems to go wrong
You can share your anguished spirit without reserve
Longing to be with the one you love, warm in the heart
Giving in to the care and the wise loving you deserve
So please do not say that it is all lies and depart
When love will take you on a life journey soon to start

You say you want to be with me but dare not call
Why must that be when I want the same and all
But I do not hear you speak, nor your laughter and cries
Why choose a pillow at night to share your sorrow
When I lay here by your side but you don’t know
Embrace me and call out so I can hear your voice
And let our souls touch and our sad hearts rejoice

So please do not say now that you want nothing of me
For I want everything of your love, my source of life
I want everything of you like I want the warm sunlight
Without your smile, I cannot sustain this long fight
Only with your love will I hold on to my expiring light
So please say nice things to me, or else I would die
From the sorrow of your farewells and your hasty flight.

Lady in Red

By Gary Yia Lee

Oh, the lady in red standing there tall
On the floor at the Hmong New Year ball
All eyes set on her lithe sturdy frame
As she waits for him to take the chance
And lead her on a merry go-round dance
Her beauty would bring Venus to shame.

The blazing lady in red, she has stature
She dances with grace, she steps with allure
Red ear-rings matched by red bangles
Black lacy shoes tied around slim ankles
She has good taste, a real sense of fashion
Making his heart pining for her moon.

The lady in red, she so enjoys the dance
She swirls around like she is entranced
The tall lady in red, she also loves to sing
Her voice is like water running in a spring
Clear and strong like a soprano in an opera
She can dance, she can sing at any fiesta.

Oh, beautiful lady in red, you make him
Fall for you as he lays helpless and bleeding
At your feet while you listen to his pleading
He has strength neither to rise nor to see
His eyes all blinded by your dazzling sight
His heart consumed by your burning light.

Even Though

By Gary Yia Lee

Even though I can see the beauty of love
I’d rather turn and look the other way
For I don’t want my heart to be swayed
By the anguish that may come with love.

Even though I hear the passing of love
I pretend I am somewhere unknown
All is quiet, everything is silent around
I don’t want to listen to the sound of love

Even though I need the comfort of love
I will act strong and put on a fake smile
I’d rather walk alone the next long mile
Pretending I don’t want to know love.

Even though I crave for the ecstasy of love
I stay proud, standing firm in my position
For I’ve been numbed by your last rejection
Blinded by the hurt and the agony of love.

Even though I have drunk the cup of love
It has not quenched my thirst or my wander
It has given little satiation for my hunger
For it is you and you only that I want to love.

Rain of Love

By Gary Yia Lee

Don’t know what is this that keeps falling
Down my face like some kind of dreaming.
Are they tears, are they drops of rain?
Sorry that my heart seems to be in pain
Pain I cannot tell, hurt I cannot share
Don’t know what to do so I can only stare.

Don’t know why I cry through my smile
Hope it’s only temporary, just for a while
Not sure what brings me this awful pain
That fills my heart like a spreading stain.
Is it because you say you don’t want love
You keep silent, you avoid being involved?

Don’t know why I keep on with the chasing
But let me admire, let me cherish on my own
Only return my love if your heart is willing
So you need not worry, let me do it alone
And I will feel better, relieved after the crying
So bear with me while my tears are drying.

It’s hard but I will get over this aching pain
When I see the blue sky without a cloud
I will get over it, I will wipe away the rain
And gladden my heart without a shout
When I can say out loud that I’m now fine
After my eyes clear and I see the sunshine.

If Reality Could Be Changed

By Gary Yia Lee

If reality could be changed into dreams
I’d bring back my youth to be with you
I’d make your tender wishes come true
And keep you for always inside my seams.

If dreams could be changed into you
I would not let them disappear or fall
I would put you bright on a pedestal
And admire you each single day anew.

If dreams could be changed into reality
And you could be put inside their frailty
I would make you feel tranquil and warm
As my love shields you from the storm.

If you could be changed into a dream
I will make it the sole object of my whim
I will spray it with the perfume of beauty
And keep your heart with me for infinity.

What is the Point?

By Gary Yia Lee

What is the point of waiting for your love
When my heart is aching to let you know
But my mind dares not break its silence
And you continue to keep your cool distance?

What is the point of playing the game
When you pretend not to know me still
You call me “Hi” instead of my real name
And I dare not ask what you really feel?

What is the point of going with existence
If it is without you standing by my side
Taking care of ills, enjoying each stride
Living life to the full in all its exuberance?

There would be a point in my dark state
If Jezebel walked through the city gate
And mend my stilled heart with her solace
As you take me into your warm ambrace.

Your Heart is Made

By Gary Yia Lee

What is it that makes your heart shifting
From one day when it is warm and loving
To the next when it is cold like snow falling
Today it is sunny, open wide and soothing
Tomorrow it is silent, closed and uncaring.

Your heart is made like a single red rose
Don’t be afraid, don’t let it become morose
Welcome new experiences in small doses
Scenting life with perfume from the stars
And love will find its way to your little heart.

Your true heart is made like a pile of gold
With a chain secured to its gleaming folds
You dangle it before unsuspecting admirers
A woman who teases and collects suitors
Often on the move from one love to another.

Do not let your heart become like stone
Unyielding, unruffled and without feelings
I plead, I seek and shout but it doesn’t see
The cold stone keeps it forever running
When will you stop and converse with me?

Are You Afraid of Love?

By Gary Yia Lee

Are you afraid of love, seeming to be tough
But deep inside you know you’ve had it rough
You thought by his love he would always abide
But he left so you have to swallow your pride.

You are hurting, for you have been betrayed
You gave him so much, now you feel amazed
You ask, you wonder what has gone wrong
And you’ve to tell yourself to remain strong

You were generous, eagerly giving love away
You tried hard and you hoped he would stay
But you were naïve, you knew it was no use
Now you’re cautious, looking for safe refuge.

You have tasted the bitterness of love scarred
Your heart was left broken, your soul jarred
You saw it was bleeding, you felt suffocating
And now you have learned to stay unyielding.

Let me mend your heart and wrap it in bandage
I will nurture your wound, fixing all its damage
Let me take it outside and give it some sunshine
Sprinkle it with true love and you will feel divine.

To My Young Hmong

By Gary Yia Lee

You are young, a youth with many Hmong siblings
You left the refugee camp where life was rough
In the new land of freedom, you try to be tough
You confront life challenges, you are no underling

Yet you are hurting, for you have nowhere to turn
You look left and right, your life is all concerns

Your parents want you to succeed, but feel outdone
They have no English or skills, so you stand alone

You question, you wonder what has gone wrong
And you’ve to tell yourself to keep going strong
You try hard, so hard because you are here to stay
Things are difficult now but will turn good one day

You were naïve, thinking things would be rosy
Now you want to hide where it is warm and cosy
You have tasted the rawness of life on the margin
You join the crowd but it sends you out on a spin

You are young, do not lose heart to life’s deceits
Have courage to grow tall and stamp out defeats
Learn to be on your own feet like a strong yearling
Work hard, study more and life will be most rewarding.

Ban Vinai

By Gary Yia Lee

Ban Vinai, nestled over six hills and four muddy creeks
Your high mountain looks down on forty thousand refugees
Defending their souls with its sharp limestone peaks
These cast-aways living inside houses with iron-roof
Many died but others were also born in your safe haven
Hmong running from Laos, land of communist re-education

Ban Vinai, you were inspirations to poets and singers
You were the first to inspire many a new troubadour
To teach Hmong the modern music they now devour
When money was needed for food, you taught women
To invent colorful handcrafts, to sew new embroideries
They now make wall-hangings into new social tapestries.

Ban Vinai, you gave us new thoughts and new religions
Our Chao Fa was thriving for being inside your gates
In their idle hours, you inspired members with new dates
For Hmong history that went back to times of dinosaurs
With fantasies about Hmong kings, statues and idols
Fanfare in nine-corner house of worship and other lore

Ban Vinai, you bring back smiles and Cupid’s love
To Hmong young men and girls fleeing Laos in the night
Who now enjoy the prime of their youth, walking in droves
Or sitting outside their houses, romance in full flight
Some had love fulfilled, others ended in tragic suicide
You love so many but also without pity cast a few aside.

Ban Vina, we still remember you all these many years
Although the people have gone, the jungle now soars
The creeks are clean, the dust a dense green space
The long houses on stilt torn down, only few in place
The memories of your generosity, an endearing embrace
Deep in our Hmong hearts, you have a very special place.

Koj Puas Nco Vib Nais

By Gary Yia Lee

Ntau xyoo lawm los kuv tseem nco Vib Nais
Wb txoj kev hlub kev plees hauv yeej thoj nam
Lub caij thaum ub uas wb ob leeg tseem hluas
Nyob ua ke niaj hnub tham tsis muaj nrhuav

Sib nyiam ib ntus ces koj hla niam dej hiav txwv
Mus nyob sab hnub poob teb chaws nraum ub
Kuv nyob Vib Nais nplooj siab puas pes ntswv
Ntsia ntsoov xub ke tos koj moo los tsis hnov koj lus

Koj puas nco tej lus ua ntej wb kev hlub yuav raug cai
Koj puas pom kuv tej kua muag thaum wb sib ncaim
Koj mus ntsiag tos tsis hnov ib suab lawm tau ntev
Cia kuv ib leeg nyob tos koj hauv kuv lub vaj lub tsev

Ntev lawm koj mus ua lub neej nyob zoo li cas
Puas tseem nco txog wb kev hlub hauv Vib Nais
Sib ncaim tau ntau lub niaj mus rau lub xyoo
Koj puas tseem xav txog wb tej qub kev sib zoo