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!
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-
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,
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
cherry blossom into color,
are here for each other,
stronger than jade-
we are a gem if you just dig deep enough.
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.
(c)2018 Bridgette Yang