“I am an eighteen-year-old, second generation Asian-American. For too long, writing, language meant division—a disconnect. As the daughter of immigrants, it meant a barrier between myself and those closest to me. My Mandarin is too facile to carry on anything more than a superficial conversation. My mother once said that we are constantly, “grasping at surfaces.” This is my saddest truth. And yet, I understand that it could not be any other way. My parents have traded so much for the life I live now – time, comfort, the “known.” Theirs is a sacrificial kind of love. Their narrative, and mine are ones shared by so much of the diaspora. This poem is for my parents.”
After Albert Abonado
I know the language of my mother’s grief:
unfurled sheets, a door swinging wide,
onions left bleeding in the sink.
Each, a kind of signal fire
swollen sick with emotion.
Each, a sorrow she reduces
to gesture. Has no words for,
shrinks small as if to say
this tongue is not mine
Immigration taught her this:
your identity is a second skin —
it is usually convenient
to kill yourself. Shedding,
is as easy as speaking English.
Nightly, the pillows grow heavy with ghosts.
So many selves have yielded here
wrung thin like tripwires.
The body count rising as she struggles
with pronunciation —
cannot bear this language
that sounds like thrashing, that rinses her gums
into clean indents, into the imperfect tense —
which is to say that this has happened
before and this will happen again.