The day is breaking III

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The end is always the hardest

I forget when I stopped looking at you with love

The moment pity started from bodies colliding

bodies breaking

Today the horizon is gray

The sky has no limit

And neither do our memories

Stretched beyond neither of us can bear

We love too much,

We love too little

stones in our pockets

Lies on our lips

I always smile before you’re hurting

My baba only taught me strength through coldness

Forgive me

There is nothing to rekindle

Only ashes remain of what we knew of us

Today I am breaking

Into the wound that is sky

Today I am waking

To a sadness I’ve known since birth

Today I hope you forget to remember –

Me

Our lives (broken & open)

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(Painting: Li Guijin, title unknown)

I’m so afraid when you hold me: I’m terrified of the loss inside multiply: I had something taken from me long ago: aka I didn’t have a heart: aka it was a toy to be trampled over by cruel men: aka I’m so afraid of us becoming the face of my abuser: I keep hoping I won’t fall in love with the one who hurt me: the one who left me: the one who beat me: I’m still afraid but when you hold me I feel your weight and its comfort and safety I feel your weight and strength: god carry me I am broken: I am open: I know the terror still persists but when I kiss your lips the fear subsides and I love how together we take to the skies I want you forever and if you ask me I’ll say yes you make me nervous all the time but the good kind of thrills that run through my chest: I think I’m in love: I think I met my other half: I think I feel the ground shake when I put my hand in his; all my life I’ve been looking for this; baby will you be mine

Lord give us your blessing let us live in your skies: our lives intertwined

See Me

SAM_3982See me yellow girl

eyes downcast with humility

 

See me back bending

Filial

giving up my seat to an elderly man

Hiding my fatigue

to wander to the back door and look out the window

 

See me light skin

Veins protruding at the wrists

Violet light hitting the dark spots under the eyes

Wary from reading

 

Who sees the rooms we stay

Locked in by white fences and loud families

That go where we go, live where we live?

 

To begin is no more suffering

open your mouth

I want to see the truths inside

 

See me white boy

pale hand reaching

impatient with longing

to exorcise this fear of winter and belonging

 

Tell my story, writer man

I came by boat by song

You seem to sing it better than me

But I hold the tale

nobody sees

 

Listen,

I am speaking to you.

 

Poem inspired by June Jordan’s “Who look at me.” Directed by desire. Ed. Jan Heller Levi and Sara Miles. USA: Copper Canyon, 2007. 10-11. Print.

Dear teacher,

I am not passive. I am not indifferent. I am not quiet. I am not complacent. I am not your model minority.

I’ll tell you what I am when you are done praising the boys and white kids. I’m tired of being ignored. I’m tired of trying to own up to who you think I am. I’ll tell you what I am. I’ll tell you when I’m ready. I’ll tell you what you failed to see in the first place.

My eyes are not slants. My “I” is not the same as “I need to go to the bathroom” or “I don’t know”. I am not crazy. I am not limited to my disability and race. I have a right to respect and civil rights.

I had needs you failed to reach. I am not created in your image. I am not your quiet Asian. I am not a conformist. I am not that other Asian girl you confuse me with. I am not your pet. I am not a thief. I am not a liar.  I am not a chink. I have armor and you’re saying my name wrong. Stop calling me “you” that is not the same as 宇. My name means universe.

I am daughter and older sister, mentor and caretaker. I am sick. I am strong. I am writer, healer, dancer and poet. I am Mandarin and Cantonese. I am multinational. I am borders and diaspora. I am survivor. I too, am teacher. Let me show you my ways.

Do not speak over me. Do not speak for me. Do not erase me. Do not assume we speak the same language. Do not speak colonization to my resistance. Do not speak white supremacy to my yellow/brownness.

Listening is powerful. Shut up when I’m talking. Don’t speak if it’s to validate your whiteness. Don’t speak if it’s to validate your ableism. Don’t speak over me. Don’t speak for me. Don’t try to erase me.

Here are my ground rules: learn to be an ally. And you better be there when I need you.

First dates & anxiety

SAM_4554 2I haven’t experienced the kind of good anxiety that exists for a long time. In fact, now I feel infinite and I know it will last. I did not expect to feel this good coming out of resuming therapy. I didn’t expect immediacy and long-term. I expected to continue carrying on in the way I have survived, the way I know how. So many things are unspoken. So many things are coming out of the dark. So many scars remain on my skin where only I know where they are.

Today I had coffee with someone who cared enough to know me and perhaps be interested in me romantically. I had been wondering for a while if someone like me, who carries so much and has experienced so much, would be ever worthy enough for love. I even told him that I was disabled. I never said that before, and am newly coming into consciousness within my disability. I immediately wish I took it back, but he smiled and asked me questions about myself, wanting to know more about me. He didn’t ask about my dis/ability. I started my day perfect, feeling more whole and confident. Previous people in my life, not necessarily there by choice, have made me feel broken.

As a sometimes-woman, as a feminine-presenting person, Asian, light-skinned, with an invisible disability, middle-class with working class immigrant values, I know, see, and feel how my privilege and marginalization intersects in my life. There are other survivor sisters who have experienced and still experience violent abuse. Other survivor sisters that have bigger bodies and darker skin carry scars I don’t have, and stories I don’t share. I know I benefit from financial support. I have a college degree. I have a resume that is attractive and an appearance that is cis-passing, a petite body, straight hair and light skin that is not seen as a threat or unprofessional in the workplace. But I have worked as a house cleaner. I have worked as a caretaker of young adults and children with disabilities for little pay, and far beyond my mental and physical capacity. I have been read as the help and treated with disdain, been ignored and abused in certain work spaces. My womxnness causes men to overlook me and disdain my accomplishments, and in traditional Chinese spaces where men hold speaking power and authority in other ways, I have been ignored or asked to speak last, if at all.

I carry my survival and have recurring anxiety, dissociation and flashbacks to earlier times where I am trapped, cannot speak, or worse, that nobody hears, sees, or believes me. When I tell others about my experience, about my survival, my worst fear is not being believed. I fear being abused constantly, cringe on the prospects of being sexually harassed, again, and sometimes fear leaving the house. This is the anxiety that binds me, and my room that sometimes promises to be a safe space does not betray the evil of my mind.  I am still working on myself. I am grateful others are investing in me. I am learning the beauty of my wholeness, disability and all. I am investing in my beauty and the wilderness of my mind. I am unlearning 2 decades of physical, emotional and sexual pain. And I am worthy of love. I am enough.

Awakening

SAM_3989I’m back at one of my childhood homes after deciding to take time off for the next semester. It’s a rainy afternoon, and the sky is purple-gray. My brother is home from college, and his friends are over and will be in the house for the next two weeks. I’ll be home for an indefinite period of time – as transient as the rain in Long Island, always falling without warning and taking up the days as generously and quietly as it came. I wonder where I have been for the past few months.

These last four years came like a whirlwind, and when I graduated high school, I expected to leave the island forever – this small town, the identical houses, the whir of traffic lights and highways and rich housewives behind for the sanctuary of a women’s college with architecture from the 1900’s and a city smaller than Manhattan. I used to sit in my room and wonder if I was going mad, or if everyone around me were part of some grand drama that I was not invited to. I would come home from school and rip into my homework with little enthusiasm, eat dinner, and sleep at 10:30PM every night.

This bedroom was one of my childhood rooms – where I would escape, and where I would have nightmares. The door still has no lock. What used to be white paint has mottled dark smears like claw marks on the lower right panels, and, as if to leave a statement, one final five inch scar in the center towards the right. I am not responsible for those scars, as my parents have moved the family out of the house for four years as they rented it out, then decided to return as my mother became chronically ill. It’s still raining as the winter sun starts to set. I have been home for slightly longer than one week, yet this time feels interminable.

The frantic barking of four dogs wakes me up in the morning, and I am forced to accompany the dogs, two at a time, around the neighborhood that all my acquaintances moved out of. What used to be homes owned by Italian and Jewish folks are now owned by Korean, Chinese, and Indian families. I count the times I see brown folks on my dog walks like stars, make eye contact surreptitiously as if acknowledging what doesn’t have to be acknowledged – that I’m here, I see you, and I come in peace.

I realize how much I have missed this neighborhood, have missed the changes, and realize how much has changed in myself, that I come back with new eyes. I probably need a new therapist, and hope that I will be able to find one who does not ask threatening questions, and does not question the validity of my existence. I have walked around for too long as if half-asleep, but all this time I was forcing myself not to feel the pain that has already sunken deep below the dermis and into my bloodstream and shimmer of a soul. I’m ready to awaken to the rain falling outside and the prospects of a revival. I’ll be 23 next year.

first draft, grieving & healing

SAM_4551 2Little ranch                  decades old apartment

Frozen dumplings      dusty glass

Fresh anger                  peaceful summers

Cold school                   mosquito nights

Quiet winters               laolao’s piano

Pretending to sleep         tomato-dough soup

Aimless wandering        hot lazy days

Long Island                    Beijing

Misplaced                     home-

Haven’t decided on a title but this is the first of many poems with a dichotomy of my lives in many homes.  May my laolao who passed in the final week of July rest in peace.

Why I teach

Growing up, I never wanted to be a teacher. Going to school was not always fun or liberating. It was tedious, uncomfortable and unsafe at times, but it was also an escape from the emotionally abusive and lonely environment I went to at the end of the day. School also presented a world with its own dangers – exclusion, verbal or cyber harassment, neglectful teachers and abusive ones. Too many times I had awful encounters with emotionally abusive teachers who were unaware of their sexism and racism, or perhaps were conscious of their actions and neglect. I remember being called a racial slur in front of my face as a 7 year old to a smiling white teacher who insisted that c**** was a vocabulary-safe definition (which wholly neglects the effects it has on people who look like me and is indicates her privilege of never having to think about my racial identity). I remember being asked as a 10 year old whether I wanted to see the school psychologist at the verge of an anxiety attack, which I was not emotionally nor mentally able to consent to as a child. I did not answer the question, similar to many of my responses later on in secondary school. I still cannot explain the reasons for my mistreatment, or why school remains unsafe for many like me today. I was treated as an adult who often had to translate everything from my day to necessary forms from English to my parents in Chinese. Despite my school district being in an area with a 25% Asian population (15% Chinese?), there is still no designated translator nor readily accessible services from human services to compassion and understanding in the elementary school I transferred to.

Even now as I embark on my Master’s in teaching, I question my purpose. There are so many fears holding me back, along with a mistrust of authority figures. Despite everything, I remember the teachers who stood out to me, who were patient and kind throughout the multiple times I shut down in class or ran away. I remember the Sunday school teacher who got to know me before my family members and complimented me on my crafts despite them not looking like anyone else’s work. I remember the college professor who said it’s always better to try when I was about to hand in my first failed psychology exam with the bonus question I thought I didn’t have the answer to. I remember my own mother who taught Chinese, who was my first Chinese teacher and saw through me as both student and daughter; who did not give any special privileges and if anything, was harder on me as a teacher because she is my mama.

Despite the trauma, I survived and I know I have what it takes to be an excellent teacher.

I thank the children and young women I worked with, survivors of trauma and violence. I’ve worked with 5 year olds who have one parent in jail and know the meaning of going to court before learning how to spell government. I’ve sat in the classroom with refugees from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa who have to leave everything familiar behind and learn everything again in a strange new tongue. I’ve struggled with my mistakes and cried when I recognize my own self-defense tactics and meltdowns in other young women with disabilities and perhaps also a history of trauma and abuse. I’m grateful for being allowed to bring my presence and way of perceiving to the students and campers I have been blessed to work with. I’m also sorry for the limitations of school and camp because they are not always physically or emotionally safe. On the other hand, they may only be a temporary haven. I’m sorry I cannot do more for the brave and resilient students I am so honored to have worked with.

If there was only one thing I could teach my past and future students, it would be to spread love. To spread it from the kindness that they know, however small, to everyone they know.

Thank you

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(Painting: Flapping the Winds, Li Guijun)

Thank you for loving me

For holding my secrets

For taking my pain and cradling it in the places that are safe

For taking me in and giving me a place to lay my head

Thank you for letting me breathe with you

Letting me be sad and broken

Letting me tell you I was violated

Staying with me anyway

Sharing our bruised and broken bodies

Holding me when I tremble

Staying closeby when I don’t want to be touched

Thank you for loving me

Let me kiss your hands you must be tired

Let me feed you milk and honey,

get through our brokenness together

I cannot thank you enough

Let me say it again

You are more than enough

Dedicated to those who love me, who I love fiercely. You remind me why I continue to exist every day. Poem from my Senior monologue at Weaving Voices.