Self / Sarili

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Her House…Tahanan…Her Room, Terry Acebo Davis in the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, WA

Faded and fragmented building

Fractured, a young mestizaje

With off-white walls and squeaking steps

Sounding off as they once did pre-foreclosure,

What are you? Chinese? Japanese? No, don’t tell me

And remnants of past existence still stand:

Tick marks on door frames act as measurements

Not white enough

Almost invisible now

Not brown enough

The shop owner’s sprawling letters on labels,

Why don’t you know Tagalog?

Needed to translate jars’ contents to curious consumers

Maganda means pretty, light-skinned girl

Preserved lemon bits, ginger, and gelatin

 

Mama, why didn’t we ever visit places like these together?

Places called “Communities of Color,”

Called “Not Your Model Minority: Resistance and Resilience,”

Called “Dealing with Dysphoric Diaspora: A Generational Tale”

 

Why didn’t you hand me a map

Or teach me the tongue –

Anything to help me navigate –

It’s easier to learn languages when they’re little, you know

She didn’t listen, Doc –

So maybe now I would stumble a bit less on the yellow brick road that is

Me and Pinay?

Eighteen and all I know is pancit, adobo, sago gulaman,

Mabuhay and maligayang bati,

And hiya,

hiya,

hiya.

 

I guess I’m learning that it’s not your fault, Mama

It’s not her fault

Uncle Sam gave us the same guidebooks

Give Tito Sam a hug and a kiss, sweetie

Called “Welcome to America: Whitewashing 101”

Called “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Assimilation for Dummies”

Called “How to: Appropriate Cultural Practices for Popular Culture”

 

I guess I wish that you could see this, Mama

The remnants of past existence that still stand:

Airtight jars of preservatives

Kasaysayan ng salinlahi

Tick marks on door frames act as measurements

Maganda

Still visible enough

Maganda ka

And step

Lakas

Step

Kabanatan

Step

Pamayanan

Up to off-white walls

The color of my ivory winter skin

Of this faded and fragmented building

Now renovated

A young mestizaje becoming

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