Bridgette Yang

Bridgette is a student at Arcadia High School.

Her poem, Dragon Fire, won 1st place in the 1st Arcadia Poetry Slam, sponsored by the Arcadia Performing Arts Center!

Dragon Fire

i am 8 years old.

hungry for lunch i pull out my hello kitty thermos filled with rice porridge

and open my ziploc bag of dried pork sung.

suddenly my crush,

the boy with blonde hair and blue eyes

looks up from his corndog

laughing, asking, “are you eating hair?”

he puts a pinch in his mouth and when he spits it out

the whole table erupts into laughter,

making me want to spit out my culture.

 

two years later and I am ten.

i’m sitting in the backseat of momma’s car

listening to KPCC

when I tell her I wish I wasn’t asian.

“momma,” I say. “don’t you think blonde hair is prettier than black?”

“don’t you think europeans are prettier than asians?”

she asks me why I think this way.

i tell her, “that’s what all the magazines say.”

 

at least, that’s what I thought.

because while other girls looked at models since they were skinny

I looked at them because they were white

bright, blinding pictures of these porcelain skinned, blue eyed angels-

“beautiful”

america said. “plaster them across every media platform available.”

 

“to be white was to be beautiful” I told myself.

to be white was to have the stage

and the job

and the award

and the world

so to have the wrong skin meant you were never going to win.

 

So i glued my mouth shut.

my chinese was a dragon with too much fire

so I english extinguished the flame.

tried to whitewash down the ashes

of a language i swore to never speak,

tried to bleed out the history of my immigrant parents

flowing in me like calligraphy ink,

but soon my body felt sick.

how could I forget the culture that has rooted herself in me?

 

taiwan tattooed her sunrises on the backs of my eyelids,

gave me fresh soymilk for a voice

shine of her tallest building for a smile

and i will not forget the culture

that has shaped me into everything i have and will become.

 

america, can’t you see?

you’ve got a crime on your hands.

stole the dreams and confidence of asian americans nationwide,

taught them

that they will only be the sidekick and never the main character,

said they need double eyelid surgery and white canvas skin to be a work of art

but we

cherry blossom into color,

are here for each other,

stronger than jade-

we are a gem if you just dig deep enough.

 

所以我不要躲了。

我的中文不奇怪,而是音樂。

My chinese will water gardens grown for my ancestors,

carry me into a new world,

and glue my two cultures together.

 

i am 16 years old.

i ask my friend if i should get bangs and she tells me

that i will “look too asian.”

so i cut my hair.

i talk to my parents in chinese in public even though they are fluent in english.

 

you can’t erase race,

and i wish i knew this sooner.

 

i wish i knew how beautiful

my small eyes,

my black hair,

my chinese, is.

because they are all a part of who i am

and who I am is a proud taiwanese american.

a whirlwind of poetry and song,

the dragon fire girl with a bilingual tongue,

standing strong, rooted.

beautiful.

 

(c)2018 Bridgette Yang

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