Alright, we have 3 poems here for your viewing pleasure. As I grow more socially aware, one of the things I’ve had to parse through is my struggle with my identity as Asian-American and what that means. I find poetry a nice way to do that.
This first poem was part of an exercise on identity I participated in (write a poem about where you are from starting with “I am…”). I took it as a chance to examine the micro-aggressions I’ve dealt with growing up in a predominately white community.
I am from hard work and
ambition, from two suitcases worn
and battered and a single hundred dollar bill.
A child free from tyranny
or so they say, born in a city known most for its tea parties instead of
a country known for its little red book.
I am from slanted eyes and darkened skin asking
why am I different and
why doesn’t my hair fall flat like Ryan’s?
From no, I can’t read those scribbles you just
drew and no, I don’t know
karate or Jackie Chan personally.
I am more familiar with
than I am with emperors and erhu
I don’t bow to say hello
and no, I don’t know how to say that in Chinese, so please
This next poem was partially in response to the whitewashing of Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness and partially just a response to whitewashing in general.
Invisible Until Convenient
It is not a right
to be seen,
or at least that’s how it feels
we are invisible until it’s convenient
it must be nice to turn on the tv
and see yourself,
When I turn on the tv
I ask why
do you wear my skin
is it your right
to be me,
you’ve stolen my voice
to speak lies,
and when the hate comes
you can take off the costume but I
am not wearing one.
This last one is me trying to deal with a large amount of internalized racism I had growing up. Looking back, it’s terrifying how systematically I worked to distance myself from my Asian identity and well…here’s the result.
a sponge cake with a creamy filling
a delicious treat for children of all ages
being only 5 during arts and crafts raising your hand to call upon the teacher
the words that slip through your lips are not the words of your peers but
the words of your parents, of your blood
you clamp your hands to your mouth as if to hold them back but it is too late
your cover has been blown
You leave your words out on the curb like the trash you take out every Thursday
Pull back your eyes, slur your L’s into R’s, it’s funny.
Tell everyone who’ll listen that deep down you’re
“really white” and this time
you almost believe it except
you can’t help but feel a swelling in your chest when you see Mulan for the first time, on a
cheap bootleg DVD where one speaker plays English and the other your half-forgotten Mandarin.
You will watch this movie many more times and love it more deeply than any other
although you cannot admit why.
You only understand this
years later, looking back
you want to cry out but they
have taken your words and you
gave them gladly
holding a brush you proudly painted your heritage
a characterless white