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!”
My story was abandoned
And monotonous chants
Of “pika pika”
Took its place.
What can I say
I love my family
With the utmost warmth
And absolute sincerity?
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.
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 float in the wind
As the warmth from the embers disperse.
Never was there a love
So sustaining and diverse.