When They Ask "What Are You?"
I grew up as a split down the middle,
a curtain torn. A house
with sorry cacti and sodden marigolds
flinching whenever someone knocked,
I am a game of who is enough,
a series of half-bitten confections.
Lately, I’ve been opening
windows in slow motion and letting shaojiu flow
in up to my neck.
A boy says he likes
Asian girls so I guess he only
likes me half as much. I could be
a shoddy participation trophy for an awards show
for local expats. With his handful of brown girls
and boxes full of incense and meditation books,
even to a white man
I am not enough. The marigolds on the porch
flinch again and suddenly I am twelve again,
feeling like my Algebra teacher’s
mispronunciation of my last name. Wearing a quiet
“thank you, thank you” like a badge when he corrects
himself. I do not remember the last time my grandmother
cooked a glazed ham, she buys only tamales now.
The last one to feel worthy is a rotten egg! A thousand year
If I am not a glazed ham, but a casserole.
If i am not white, but off-white,
If my eyes are not almond enough to be milk,
If I am not telenovelas, but pinatas at birthday parties,
If I am not the weight of badmouthed slurs,
but the clang of train metal that
connects the country together,
How do I squash this
like an over ripe tomato?
I am leaking with apologies like tres leches cake
on my 13th birthday.
When my abuela asks “ya comiste” or
when people ask if I speak Mandarin,
I fold my courage into new year wonton wrappers
and crush down myself like carne por la empanadas—
apologetic for claiming something i do not fully understand.
How can I exist with a quadruple identity with
no tethers to any post,
with a home that does not feel like a home
and the overladen impulse for floundering?
I bite my lip till its tender,
and I save the rest for later.