Translucent

By Cindy Jiang
Poem by Cindy Jiang on Right Now

When I was ten years old, I became white

It wasn’t the result of some dystopian, science-fiction, cutting edge innovation
magic in a tube
a pledge made under a God I don’t trust
a new line to stand in at border control each time
I try to go home

I became white when I relinquished the sword that drew blood
Tongue sharpened to a point
ripped untimely
from a mouth that had barely begun to move
stumbling between syllables that held no meaning
other than survival

Back then, the rise and fall of the English language
was nothing but a shield to stop the playground taunting
Swinging blind
A battle cry I could barely understand

It’s always the immigrant kids who speak English the fastest
speeding through each word as though we could just
skip over the shame that made our voices shake
as though sounding white
could erase the fact that we were not

My four languages
Muffled by the yellow drum
stretched over my face
screaming

CHINESE

before I have a chance to open my mouth

YOURENGLISHISSOAMAZINGIT’SSOCOOLTHATYOU’REINTOFOOTYYOURPAR ENTSARESOAMAZINGFORLETTINGYOUBEAWRITERIFIDIDN’TSEEYOURFACE ANDJUSTHEARDYOUTALK —

Drown it out drown it out drown it out

Buried myself in

SHAKESPEAREPOEWILDEDICKINSON

drown out
the three-hundred poems from The Tang Dynasty

这些都是老古董
只有老古董才不学英文
崇洋媚外才能活下来

Tried to silence my mother

Stop speaking Chinese
People are looking at us
Stop patting that watermelon
to see if it’s ripe
Everyone else just takes a gamble and leaves

But she never listened

and because of that
we always ate the sweetest, ripest watermelons

My face
My voice
My body
My mind
are spaced tens of thousands of kilometres apart
It looks like

BEINGAGLOBALCITIZEN

most days
it’s displacement

Don’t tell me to go back to where I came from
because I have lost my place at the table
in my own home
bigger
darker
native accent alien words
I don’t feel like I come from anywhere at all

Let me wake up white
cliché ending

it was all a dream a dream

colour

a dream

cold sweat I can just
wipe off my face and be
white

clean

I used to wash my face four times a day
Scrub the Chinese away
and become

translucent

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