Where is Home?

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

you have.

you stumble,

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,”

i hear,

“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

and so

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?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Comments (



%d bloggers like this: