whereas, years ago in arkansas
i convinced my mom that she should close the restaurant on sundays.
we lived in the bible belt so nobody wanted chinese food on the lords day anyways
is what i told her.
she heard me say that i was lonely.
i didn’t realize until now.
in honor of religion or tradition
sundays are still for us.
the one day a week i’m not asked to speak my mother tongue
but i do anyways and i don’t notice
how strange i must sound to anybody other than my mother.
whereas, how many weeks ago did i
read about the outbreak on twitter
or hear the bad news on npr
or listen to a voicemail from my mom.
novel coronavirus makes it sound very special, like
i was in fact the token asian of my high school.
whereas, im sorry
i can only write this poem in english.
to say i have a missing tongue is weird
but that’s how my family explains me.
weng mang means blind to words i think
which makes my mother sad, more than me.
she cried the day our old dog went deaf,
the screen door slammed shut and he didn’t stir
she wept while he slept on a hand sewn pillow in the afternoon
i had already gone to college then.
whereas, in china my grandpa listens to THE evening news and reads THE paper
he paints my mother the wild child of his three daughters
her lamentations of our mother country as another mile between us.
she is so americanized apparently she doesn’t love china
she says she loves the chinese; and that’s different
but i see her homesick on sundays
making cong yo bing, or onion and oil pancakes
and yuan xiao tang, or round rice dumpling soup
names so normal the translation is almost pointless,
food so humble to think they would ever be said in english.
for our new year my mother laid them out on a white tablecloth
and wished for my good health.
whereas, the citizens of wuhan only hear one voice, like my grandpa.
my mother says to my aunties and uncles that they must be leery
they tell her leave a voice memo rather than a text
in case theres a taboo on wechat
they still want to talk to her as we are family after all
she says the biggest danger in china is not the virus but the silence.
i wish i could hear just her
i want to admit im avoiding the news
seems like everyone has something to say,
glancing at me as they do
perhaps im paranoid.
either way ive nothing to announce.
i bristle when i hear the name,
try to remember that
corona is my favorite beer
corona is where my best friend use to live.
Inspired by Layli Long Soldier and Solmaz Sharif.
Last updated 12/15/20
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