We gave up our past, because we fear,
More American than American, that’s what we strove to be,
Hot dogs and hamburgers and sparklers on the holidays,
Performing for the grand stage, just like all good replicants do,
Because we see what happened.
Abused children, watching Uncle Sam for anger,
They say we are the model ones, the smart ones, the industrious ones,
Please, we’ll be good, and docile, and quiet,
We remember the Chinese Exclusion Act,
How could we not, our grandparents lived it,
We remember the Japanese internment,
Were we not patriotic enough for you?
Building your railroads, fighting in your wars, dying.
And so we cast aside our silks, our words, our links to the past,
Better no accent at all than to know how to speak with Po Po, or Lola,
And though we still crave bao and juk, pancit and lumpia, we forget it,
Until we see it again, pre-packaged under fluorescent lights, exotic Trader Joe’s fare
Xiaolongbao, heat in microwave, no prep required, ready in three minutes.
Sometimes we go back, to a land that should be home to us,
But they speak a language we only recall in dreams,
Where we are outsiders, American cousins, uncultured,
They don’t feel like we feel, about spam and rice.
We grew up with no heroes, no way stones to guide us,
Mickey Rooney and David Carradine apparently do better at us than we do,
Scarlett Johansson is more palatable. It’s okay, they say,
They can be big and loud and dynamic, because we are small and meek and unexpressive
Know your role they say, the smart one, the industrious one, the quiet one.
But you did too well. We have forgotten our grandmother’s tongue,
How to fold a dumpling just right, how to say goodbye when they die,
How to have anything but dread and rage in our hearts when they ask,
Where are you from? No, where are you really from?
We know what they mean, sometimes we can forgive them,
Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we know we are greater than what they wish,
What they fetishized, exotic fare, there to amuse,
No funny accent left, cherry blossoms don’t fall when we kiss,
Only hurt and anger and a struggle to come to terms with heritage gone sour,
Full blooded or half, we are only part-cultured, feral children under a mask.
A mask to be a more perfect reflection of them, made by our parents with love,
But we are them now, loud and conflicted and full of rage,
Clinging to the bare bones of our past, weaving flesh from fireworks,
The mask is slipping, sorry mom, the violin lessons weren’t enough to hold it on,
And soon we will see just how strange and wonderful we can be.