Song of Self

I am of a white sun against a blue sky, and a blue star against a white expanse. My body is a legacy that spans centuries, continents, cultures, and creeds, sustained by lo mein and latkes alike. No one part overshadows the other; no one part wanes under the influence of the other.


I belong wherever I am not, a conspicuous outsider among my mother’s family as well as among my father’s. I cannot sing the lunch prayer in Taiwanese, nor can I sing the blessings in Hebrew. I have left behind my mother’s religion, my father’s homeland, my mother’s tradition, my father’s language. My body is an outsider as well. The folds in my eyelids give me away, the curls in my hair give me away. I am not one thing; my identity comes with a footnote. Both sides of me are equally mine and not mine. I wonder if I have the right to fully claim either side.


I am fearless and frightened, furious and forgiving. I wage internal wars in my breath and thought, the upturn of my mouth or the knit of my eyebrows. These wars are rarely noticed by anyone but me; I wage them anyway. I am calculated and impulsive, constantly conscious of myself. I plan revolutions and stop just short of carrying them out. I observe others relentlessly, and observe myself ruthlessly. Often I am more kind with others than I am with myself.


I am defiant or compliant as my moods demand. I am learning to pick my battles, learning that not every injustice can be confronted. I lose some of the battles I choose to fight, flustered and inarticulate. I win a triumphant, blazing few. When I choose not to fight, I fight with myself, with my conscience and my dignity. I always come away the loser, ashamed of putting comfort above justice, afraid of breaking the silence in the room. I am a peacemaker at heart. I want people to be comfortable. So I say nothing. I was taught to forgive forever, to turn the other cheek when I am slapped in the face. But I am not the only person I fight for.


Understand me. When I throw your boot off my back my intent is not to grind your face into the dust. I only want the sunshine that is blocked by your shadow. I want it for me; I want it for everyone who lives in the dark. I want to stretch out my arms like an angel, and shield those who have it worse than me. I want to hold every person who has been hurt and destroyed, who has been left to wither from lack of light. Your fear does not leave room for my love; it must be conquered.


My love is lonely and fierce; it is small and hardly noticed and yet stretches across the whole world. I am rarely confident enough to confine my love to words. My love is in my laughter when my loved one tells a story; my love is in my comfort when my loved one needs to cry. My love is converted into ones and zeroes and sent across oceans, wrapped carefully in paper and delivered on birthdays. The tears that cannot escape from my chest and the smiles that stretch across my face are both full of my love. My love is my duty to all the people on this earth. I overflow with love; I overburden myself with love.


And in my love there is anger. There is frustration and shame, because you think it is your right to pretend I don’t exist. My love fuels my empathy for others; do you not have empathy like I do? Do you not see their pain? Do you not see my pain? If you want to hurt me, you have done so; not with guns or knives or even words but by refusing to care that I am hurting. I cannot make you see me if you close your eyes.


Understand me. I cannot make you care. I cannot wrench your hands off your ears and force you to listen to me. You decide that. But know that I am here, hurting, while you laugh at me. Understand me. There are people dying because you refuse to hear them. You can save them if you care enough to try to love them. Understand me. I do not ask for anything but this: understand me, understand me, understand me.

This poem is about: 
My community
My country
Our world


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