What Are You
I hold my nose and fish my sister’s friendship ring out of the toilet because, at 9, I sense that we need that kind of thing to face what probably smells like shame. We have the same bone structure. She bites harder than I do, but we are both aliens. Starchildren, if you listen to Mona Jade. Though I don’t have any proof other than my eyelids, flat nose, bad teeth. My “What are you?” answers, different every time, depending on which star I’m floating on that day. What’s it to you when I’m a grump, or Why don’t you take a guess if I’m feeling flirty. But come on, “What are you?” with that glowy look of a man imagining traveling to China’s sewers. I’m from fucking Orange County! I let that one squirm out only when I hate myself and my hair is stringy, mostly. It’s such a tiny part of any day to not have enough boxes for what’s fully in you. But there are enough labeled specifically “check one” to remind you that you are a pioneer, a checkerboard mystery, a NASA Hubble Cassini Kepler all in one. A hybrid monkey-cat mewing all the way to the Milky Way, making collages out of dust.
Gung-man, the father, better known as Bob to everyone else, found out at 50 that there was white blood in the family. This was after he was disgraced for marrying my blonde mom. Disowned completely. No more big Christmases for mutt babies. The Chinese don’t just not share their secrets. Did you know they don’t have any at all. Experts at forgetting, professionals in fact. My heart on Sunday mornings is a colander and my soul southern fried chicken mornings wanting to be fresh, sacred. That’s when, for 20 years, Gung-man didn’t smile, only let it bake inside. But also, you know there are tunnels in every room. Like how my grandmother, then my mother, then me, never talked about the abortions or how those wisps of children transformed into pebbles in our throats. To have a link like this to nowhere sounds like gibberish in words. Still, I was born. I have a feeling I came out tossing and tumbling on the crazy wagon like my grandmother. 1967 Loving v. Virginia, the landmark Supreme Court case recognizing interracial marriage, does not address Chinese honor. So now when my straight up Anglo friends travel to China and the Chinese are so stoked to see real live white people like in the movies, they buzz around them like they’re celebrities. I wonder what it felt like for chee-thlee, the crazy one, to have such tiny feet. Bound up, wrapped in tape for decades until the blood vessels had been trained to obey. I wonder what her face looked like when she found out she had a mongrel for a granddaughter, tiny blood vessels popping as her fury echoed forward in time, all the way through to baby’s first birthday, kindergarten graduation, graduations upon graduations, divorces and bad stunts. You know she put a curse on us.
Nancy Woo is an emerging poet in Long Beach, CA, who has a degree in sociology from UC Santa Cruz. She has been writing poems since she was 8 years old, but is only recently out of denial that she does in fact write poems. She is also a community organizer, independent writing and editing professional, and insane cat lover. You can follow her on Twitter @fancifulnance.