You Could Put Butter On Anything

It is true that I traveled a lifetime away

after teaching my hands how to dance

around two wooden poles

My grandfather watched me silently

as my fingers ventured

inside exquisite bags of coffee beans

before I left him

at the restaurant that served

World's Best Minestrone Soup and

Ribeye steak with butter

I imagined the ocean as an incomplete jigsaw puzzle

and the spaces were land

Where people drank QingDao beer (the best kind)

before throwing the teal bottles in the water

As if it was their duty

To color what was sacred


I pressed myself into the earth

like a jar of kimchi

hoping that I will come out beautiful &

saturated with escapism

my mother cooked me dinner

ribeye steak with rice and teriyaki sauce

food with the freedom of expression-----

You could put butter on anything here, Ying

as long as you find your way home

my head was swimming to gibberish lyrics

then to the anesthetic silence that built a wall

the Manifest Destiny on one side

and me on the other, barefooted 

shards from the beer bottles leaving a trail

welcoming a young immigrant

I was bleeding my way to the American dreams

that were too intimate to be foreign


My grandfather spoke Russian to me on the phone

I explained to him the versatility of butter 

and he examined my privilege

with a voice rusting with post-revolutionary sorrow------

I just wish you can understand

how great Joseph Stalin was to the People's Republic

There were gravitational forces

pulling me back to the other side of the globe

my body emerged out of the sea ports

where my father shucked fresh oysters like it was

a ritual

where I juxtaposed girlhood with the sea

that was mighty enough to demolish the wall

behind which I was putting butter

on way too many things


My mother and I sat down on the plane and shared

a bento box

Forget about butter

We are coming home






This poem is about: 
My family
My community
My country
Our world


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