poetry

Poetry reading for RADAR Productions. 2016


what being an ocean has taught me

published in MIXED UP!: A Mixed Race Queer + Feminist Zine Vol. 3. 2017

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i’ve been carrying around this prompt about bridges with me for weeks now. taking it on walks. meditating with it in the bath. dreaming with it in my sleep. something about opening up and examining my experiences as a mixed-race person feels complicated. overwhelming. exhausting. i’ve started to write this piece at least three times now. not quite sure how to enter, not quite sure where to begin.

this is a common feeling for me: not knowing how or where to begin. not knowing which point in the vast constellation to start from. not knowing which points to bend or to compromise, not knowing which points to include or leave out. this is what’s particularly overwhelming about being mixed-race, about the moment one asks me to describe my experiences as a mixed-race person. i am a whole thing yet the world understands and asks for me in pieces. the world wants to know just enough to be mystified, but not enough to fully see or feel me. it is across this fragmentation that i am asked to be a bridge.

the appealing thing about a bridge is that it takes you from point A to point B. once you’re on the bridge, it’s easy to find your way to the other side: you just keep going straight. but the hard thing about bridges too, is that they take you from point A to point B. they take you from the beginning point to the end. they are linear. but life is not linear. time is not linear. being mixed-race is not a linear experience and i myself am not a linear thing. in the world i am asked to be linear. to choose a point A and point B to explain myself within. the world asks me to choose either / or. the world reminds me not to take up too much space.

years ago, i was walking around lake merritt with a friend and we were talking about gender. how the gender spectrum is the current alternative to the gender binary. i told them that i didn’t want a spectrum because a spectrum still feels too linear—i still have to place myself along a bridge between point A and B. and if we place each other on the spectrum, we still exist in a linear relationship to each other. you are closer to point A and i am closer to point B. i wanted something more expansive and multidimensional than a spectrum. like an ocean: vast, interconnected, and in motion. in an ocean, i am less likely to have to describe myself in relation to arbitrary points, in relation to point A and point B. instead, i have a wide and ever-changing space to just describe myself within: i am this patch of deep sea that is now calm after a storm. or: i am this patch of warm water above a coral reef. or: i am floating beneath the stars.

my experiences (like many and maybe all mixed people) have been less about some fantasy of multiculturalism and more about healing (from) intergenerational trauma. i grew up in a household created by my parents—a brown refugee father from viet nam, and a light-skinned immigrant mother from guadalajra, mexico. i was born eleven years after my parents came to the U.S., right after they moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles with my older sister. i grew up in a town of hyper-conservatism and white supremacy that acted like a pressure cooker for my family which was already steeped within layers and layers of familial, systemic, and intergenerational trauma. i grew up around a lot of adults who weren’t quite sure how to survive what they had been through. three women on both sides of my family have either attempted or have committed suicide. everyone has done the best they could. and as these traumas and struggles for aliveness continue to unfurl, everyone is doing the best they can. including myself.

when i express a desire for wholeness, articulation, and existence, i mean it. not abstractly, but concretely. physically. linguistically. emotionally. spiritually. the world as it is makes it nearly impossible for complex, complicated, and multidimensional beings to exist in our entirety. so we use our superpowers to create space for our existence, we use our superpowers to find a way to be whole again. this is my / our magic: creating healing, connection, and home out of loss, fragmentation, and despair. even here, through the microcosm of this story, i have been able to articulate a space for myself. i have been able to create a tiny pathway back towards myself and my own healing.

sitting with this prompt about bridges, i’ve been able to realize just how much of my thinking about being mixed-race has ultimately revolved around being able to articulate myself to other people. contemplating questions like: how do i describe myself and who i am? which identity markers do i utilize, or not? how do i articulate myself so the other person will see and understand me? has ultimately led me down a pathway of silence and erasing my own expansiveness and complexity. i think of where i have come from and feel how urgent and necessary it is for me to honor the fullness of my aliveness. i know this is a process rather than a point. and that this process is more like being an ocean than a bridge.

my / our aliveness is urgent and necessary which means i can no longer let myself only half-exist as a bridge bending across somebody else’s point A to point B. so now, when someone asks me what i am or i feel unsure about my wholeness or where i come from, i will remember this: i’m a star. i am a child of the sun and the earth and i am healing and finding my way back into my power. i am made of the memories of the earth and stories of my ancestors; in my heart is the vastness of the ocean, fields of flowers, and a sky full of stars. i take baths and lay in the moonlight to remember myself. and when my mind drops down into the space of my heart, i began to float through my own sea; i begin to feel my own rhythms and waves. i feel the fullness of both my sadness and my joy. and i continue to swim. i continue to make room.

 

HOW WE MAKE // on learning to stay

published in HOLD: a journal, Issue Two: Kin. 2017

1.

bent
over their
ribcage
i inked
an outline
of the mississippi
passing through
minnesota
i liked it better
as a fuzzy
constellation
before i came and
turned it
into something thicker
something scary
happens inside of me
when someone
i love
gives me
permission
to press
into them
so deeply i leave
a river of speed
ball india ink
in my
wake

2.

she
asked us
to write
a list of things
we need
next to
a list of things
we want
i skipped
food
water
wrote down
“space
to talk about hard
shit openly. space to talk about
suicide and self
harm.” my dad
brought me
a blue scarf back
from viet
nam
i have grown to appreciate
the pattern
but he always gives me
the wrong things
except
when he drove
four hundred miles
to bring me
my mother
still alive

3.

in the distance
we might believe
we all stay
small

and distant reflections

of light that
has left

us
dimming

in the distance

3.

how
not to
disappear
in space
where the stars stay
tiny and i stay
tiny too

4.

my outline becomes
a radius
of light touching
new light:

they say
this is forever

 i say
i have never seen anything
so bright