spectral

United States

黃愛莉
help girl, i feel a different heartbeat inside my chest.
50~ Sept. 2020

Message to Readers

edit: it looks like, in fact, italic and pinyin does not make a good smoothie. and it also looks like i'm not the only ha gau lover.

'chinese' american

July 7, 2020

FREE WRITING

12

i. měiguórén
teach me/o duolingo/you can make me repeat the phrase all you want/wǒ shì měiguórén,/again, better./wǒ shì měiguórén/it'll never be the same/wǒ shì měiguórén/i look up and there she is, mandy/wǒ shì měiguórén/and then i hear the language flow out of her lips with ease/wǒ shì měiguórén/a stream of graceful words/wǒ shì měiguórén/i will never understand fully/wǒ shì měiguórén/mother, when they told her, my pó pó, not to speak Mandarin at home, what did you think/wǒ shì měiguórén/when you forgot with time/wǒ shì měiguórén/did you know one day/wǒ shì měiguórén/ your daughter would hear the language/wǒ shì měiguórén/see the culture/wǒ shì měiguórén/and think that it wasn't hers/wǒ shì měiguórén/no matter how many cheongsam worn/wǒ shì měiguórén/how many red envelopes received/wǒ shì měiguórén/how many ha gau devoured/wǒ shì měiguórén/but a language isn't culture, you say/wǒ shì měiguórén/no, it's only the key/wǒ shì měiguórén/she, mandy, hears the měiguórén on my tongue/wǒ shì měiguórén/my american stiffness/wǒ shì měiguórén/she laughs, say the tones are off/wǒ shì měiguórén/i laugh with her/wǒ shì měiguórén/what a sorry attempt/

ii. banana, twinkie, it's all the same

when my mother went to Taiwan for a summer camp/she didn't speak the language/the others called her a banana/yellow on the outside, white on the inside/othertimes, a twinkie/you bite into the asian but only find white/she laughed it off/now that's recognized as a racial slur/i guess people don't say it out loud anymore/still, i wonder,/whats the gene for banana,/and did i inherit it/do people look at me and see my angled eyes and dark hair/and then i speak accentless english and smile my easy american smile and when people ask me, i say/'sorry, i don't speak.'/and they nod, and re-categorize me/and then when it's dim sum time/we go out and our gōng gong orders/the servers converse to him with their flawless mandarin/while we,the 3rd-generation 'chinese'-americans, wait/and then its over and my little brother/with his natural english/smiles to a server/says, 'xie xie!'/and i think about the lack of tones and the american accent/and my hypocrisy in thinking all of that/of course, the server is probably used to that sort of mandarin/he smiles and nods/leaving us with a bill/huh/when the asians call you white/and the whites call you asian/where do you stand/
wǒ shì měiguórén- i am american. and měiguórén meaning america/american.
pó pó- mother's mother. would be my grandmother.
gōng gong- mother's father. would be my grandfather.
xie-xie (or more accurately, xièxie)- thanks
ha gau- a dim sum ( a style of chinese food) dish- a sort of shrimp dumpling.

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  • July 7, 2020 - 11:31am (Now Viewing)

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9 Comments
  • sunny.v

    replying: thank you for your support on poetri’s piece :) she’s a tad busy right now, so i’m filling in. i have faith that you’ll find the message! when that happens: meet me there :)


    5 months ago
  • erin!

    this resonated so deeply with me. i'm first generation but i live in a really white community and i can never seem to figure out whether to be chinese or american. i aso think about future generations and how far away we'll eventually feel from china. i'm so glad someone put it ito words. my favorite part is "whats the gene for banana,/and did i inherit it/do people look at me and see my angled eyes and dark hair/and then i speak accentless english and smile my easy american smile and when people ask me, i say/'sorry, i don't speak.'/and they nod, and re-categorize me." just so good.


    5 months ago
  • inanutshell

    can totally relate to the banana thing - i'm chinese in an asian country but so westernised, 'when the asians call you white/and the whites call you asian/where do you stand/' it's hard to fit in when you toe the line between two cultures and this line (& this piece!!) captures that perfectly. also i really love ha gau!!!! i've always spelt it har gow so i didn't recognise it at first, but omg it's def one of my favourite foods in the world.


    5 months ago
  • løne wølf

    SDFLSKDJF- HOW ARE YOU SO ACCURATE?! but on a more serious note, this captures the essence of being a chinese-american so fully. it's very relatable. thank you for writing this <3


    5 months ago
  • purplepanache

    oH this is painful, you've captured that very specific lack of somewhere to belong so brilliantly. im an expat in the only place on earth i call my home, and i could relate to this on many levels. very well-written!


    5 months ago
  • Tho Nguyen

    This is such an amazing poem. It offers a snapshot into the life of an Asian-American (or more specifically, a Chinese-American). I especially love how you mentioned Duolingo and dim sum restaurants, and your intermixed use of Mandarin. Thanks for giving translations!


    5 months ago
  • Deleted User

    This piece is so cool! (I learn sometimes learn chinese from duolingo) I love ha gau. Great piece!


    5 months ago
  • sunny.v

    omg ha gau!! i love eating that—i think there’s a vietnamese version of its spelling but I understood it either way. the banana/Twinkie was so clever, I totally get what you meant. asian american solidarity, yep. you wrote your conflict so genuine. <3


    5 months ago
  • chrysanthemums&ink

    ah, duolingo. *me: skipping my chinese duolingo lessons again*. maybe that hit a little too close to home. i love the way you paint a picture of your 'american-ness' and your 'chinese-ness' and how they conflict with each other, being stuck in being both countries. this is amazing <3


    5 months ago