Self as a Cultural Being

POEMS

It’s really the first time I’ve contemplated on being “a person of color” here in my now adopted home, the U.S..

One of the assignments for a class in multiculturalism is an art project on the theme of “Self as a cultural being”. My experience of being a “cultural being” often feels like a game of peekaboo with the world. Now you see me; now you don’t – depending how you reacted when you saw me. Every cultural aspect is the context through which I see, and through which I am seen.

In the following poem I wanted to capture a sense of how I get caught between the Chinese and Western cultures, how I perceive my identity as something fluid and dependent upon the cultural background and perspective of others, and a new-found awareness and sense of power to introspect and act against external systemic forces.

 

 

My parents gave me wealth,
a good home, the gift
of an education
across the oceans
to come back with a cultured
tongue
and a bleached
mind and intellect underneath
the yellow skin.
At home I see pride
and envy in their eyes.

But I know
I became a hybrid creature, a
confused chameleon
with two tongues
who need an interpreter
between my inner selves.

Everywhere I go
I have mirrors
made out of the Chinese
and the Western perspectives
monitoring me.

And I know away from home
I’m a tapestry of mixed designs
at once familiar and odd,
woven by as many hands
as I’ve come across.
My mother’s, slow but ever-present.
The schools and cultures from
Hong Kong, Britain or America
sew bold and too-tight patterns
with machines
scrunching up the fabric
of me.

I want to follow the loose ends,
the places where I fray,
where I look messy, out of place.
I want to dissect the layered knots,
to free and examine every thread.
I want to re-braid
according to new rules
that I make.

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