Poem: Where are you from?: Part One


What does it feel like to belong?

Part of the clan

Part of the colony.

What would it be like

If no one ever asked me

Where am I from?

The repetitive interrogation

of strangers stalking me

as if they were experts

detectives of Asian culture.

“Why do you want to know?”

I ask, they have no response to that.

Some say they can guess

whether I’m Chinese or Japanese

I say, neither of these

stereotypes work to corral us

all up in a bunch.

“Go back to China!”

is the racist mantra

repeatedly over and over.

They ask me

as if they’re doing me a favor

by acknowledging

that this can’t possibly be

my actual country

but it’s the only one I’ve got

an elusive stranger here

ever since I was three yrs old.

My parents chose to immigrate

to *Migook, the United States

the golden land of opportunity.

They taught me to imitate

which robbed me:

of my original identity

the relief of mainstream normalcy

the advantage and protection

of naturally fitting in,

blending into a part of the majority.

I lost my right of

pride in belonging.

Animals survive through

camouflage and schooling

safety in numbers.

Standing apart

is like having a bulls-eye target

marked across your heart.

Inclusion is a dream

like upward mobility

swimming upstream

or eaten alive

the illusion

of the American Dream.

Welcome home to your role

as resident outsider among insiders,

always in the outer skin within.

The foreigner

The expatriate

The saboteur

in permanent exile.

Come hold the protest up

Without any mention again.

Invisibility scorn.

I have no land to return to

None that would understand

My lost amnesia language

My multitasking personas

My shame in assimilation.

No one can rename me again

I’ve already been:

reformed reframed

renamed reclaimed

to an easy to pronounce

mark, a nickname

like a costume

Judy Judy Judy,

I wear it to make us

all feel comfortable

in the land of ruin.

Reborn as a double agent

with culture clash

double preloaded

into my hijacked mind

into my assimilated body.

Longing is the essential part

of not belonging.

“Where are you from?”

“Where do you belong?”

“On Earth, just like you, Duh!”


*Migook is the Korean word for USA