陳 慧瑩 Huiying Bernice Chan
when you ask me, “where are you from?”
my body will jolt back a little
and in that split second, my eyes
gauge your intention
you will wonder if you’ve said something wrong
i mean, “where is home, where you grow up?”
your words no longer matter.
you see, home is sometimes just an address
home is the space between the name of a borough in new york
and youtube videos
of farmers speaking 台山話 next to cement homes。
home is cypress hills cemetery
where the bodies of my great grandmother, aunt and uncle i never knew lie
it is where up on a hill, a tombstone marks 婆婆 ‘s body
buried next to an empty piece of land we bought early
so 公公 will lie next to her.
home is 唐人街
chinatown that greets me when i get off the six hour bus from boston
on this gum-spotted concrete
home is a memory.
of the summer i was in chinatown
i could walk down one street
into the massage parlor
and greet mimmi behind the counter
after getting mango smoothies, taiwanese porkchops with tea egg and rice and
waving at yoon from behind the counter at xi’an famous foods.
home is the search.
my father’s obsession with looking at houses for sale in staten island
because after we moved to brooklyn,
his cherry blossom tree, eggplants, tomatoes, string beans, and sunflowers never grew
but he rarely looks with the intention of moving
because there is always something not good enough about the houses he sees.
until my parents can retire, until i make the six-digit salary,
home remains temporary addresses and dream-living.
home is the soft no
my mother replies
when i ask her, “can we go back to 台山?”
in her, “no, china has too many mosquitoes, it’s too hot to go back,”
“don’t make me remember home.
the days i was young enough to play volleyball
when i biked through the village
and caught warm wind as i sped by rice fields.
i’ve left that home behind, let’s just live from here.”
and so when you ask me
“where are you from?”
i am no longer mad.
i have long grown tired of anger
tired of fighting to defend an america that will never be for me.
the struggle for money is the one for happiness is the one where
not everyone in your family can win
in my rehearsed casual white english
in response to you
i will say,
“i’m from brooklyn.”
and hope to never see you again.
where is home?
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