Antonia Dang – Poems

Family Gathering

Our home is the gathering space

A landing dock, an inviting place

So all of the members

New and old

Take comfort in the aroma of steamed rice

And the clinks of clean porcelain spoons.

The younger people

Are drawn to the vibrancy of my room.

I don’t think it’s anything special

But they toy with the lights

And admire the mementos on my bulletin board.

My room has every single color on the light spectrum

Splattered somewhere on my wall.

We take a break from the din

Of the older ones

Talking in sounds we recognize

but don’t understand

And I tell my stories.

I am the storyteller of the family.

I draw my cousins into bed

And show them living dreams.

“Will you tell us about Mulan again?”

Asks my cousin, no older than five.

She clutches my straw hat in excitement

Which is a treasured piece of clothing

Pertaining to where home used to be.

“What about Princess Furball?”

Another cousin pleads.

He gestures to my eclectic culmination

Of colored pencils and crayons.

Princess Furball has in innate interest

Of coloring in the most absurd places.

“What about you Atoya?”

“Why do you want to hear about me?”

“Because we want to!”

The herd scampered to their usual spots.

Some snuggled into my bed

Printed with flowers

colored in the season of spring.

Others perched on my chair

Coated in velvet mossy green.

As for me

I took a spot on the matted carpet

Against a wall painted yellowed cream.

“Once upon a time

When I was as small as you,

I used to ask my brain

What would happen if I had a pikachu?

Would I keep it under my bed,

Or in my tennis shoes?

If I had a pikachu,

I would feed it

Spring rolls with fresh mint

And Chả lụa as a treat

With flakes of seaweed snack

wrapped in banana leaf.”

“You can’t feed pikachus Chả lụa!”

Said my cousin in laughter.

“That’s Vietnamese ham!”

Before long

My story was abandoned

And monotonous chants

Of “pika pika”

Took its place.

What can I say

Other than

I love my family

With the utmost warmth

And absolute sincerity?

Displaced

Can you translate that?

I want to be a part of the conversation with you

I promise I’m part of the pack

Just lacking in an area or two

You’re making me nervous

I didn’t understand anything you just said

Can you repeat that again?

I’m sorry for wearing your patience down to a thread.

I know it takes me a little while

To catch up to certain things.

I fully understand

The annoyance that my naivety brings.

The native words of your history

Roll off your mouth like a savory sweet

But when I try to do what you just did

The syllables hitch in my throat and retreat.

Your traditions are handed down to you

From one family member to the next

My culture is based off of tumblr posts

That sometimes offer no context.

Most of what I know to be true

Are stereotypes on the internet

Do we really act that way?

They portray us as dangerous threats.

I am like you, but by blood rather than culture

To let you know in my defense

It may seem stupid when I forget to do things

That should be common sense

In all honesty, I feel so inferior

When I watch the rest of you guys

Your heritage is ingrained in your spirit

While mine peels off like a paper disguise.

It’s not your fault I feel this way

I should stop and grow some tougher skin

But why does it sting so forcefully

Like my effort was stabbed with a pin?

The more it stabs

The more it bleeds

And as the blood comes out

So does the acceptance that I desperately need.

The Women In My Family

Hailing from the golden states

Loves everyone she hates

Always giving without gains

Sing her chorus without refrain

Really proud of her heritage

Family blood and lineage

Represents an old image

Something new, something vintage

Her name’s a connotation

For willful skill and patience

Her rules are meant to be bent

Explain her cheap sentiments

She’s one hundred shades of paint

Devil’s advocate, still a saint

The motherland calls her home

Til’ she’s there she’s set to roam.

Soup Dinner

Take a bone

For the broth

Put it in the pot to boil.

Wait a bit

Stir the stick

Feel the steam rising in the air.

Tell your dad

And your mom

To come inside from work.

Sit down here

Eat some more

This is what extra helpings are for.

Flames

Flames float in the wind

As the warmth from the embers disperse.

Never was there a love

So sustaining and diverse.

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