My heart leaps at the sound of Tagalog and Ilocano
My ears are enveloped in comfort.
A piece of me awakening from slumber
My body feels like a child’s again,
As if I am home and I am safe.
Finding comfort in the semi-foreign sounds,
My English thinking brain cannot process its entirety
But subconsciously I know it.
And feel it, and it sounds right and it sounds good.
Raised outside of the motherland
Equipped with a different language
The mother tongue is a tune I’ve always known
Something so inherent in my veins
Yet, a song I cannot sing for myself
It’s the sounds my mother makes,
My grandmother, my titas and titos
People that love me and want to hug me
And prepare for me the ancestral food I’m deprived of.
My brain swells with happiness.
The sounds I idolize
Are imprinted into my ears
Yet cannot be replicated by my own tongue.
Pathetically, I long to hear and understand
These foreign characters strung together,
Making sense of the meaning
Shyly contorting my mouth in secret
So I can artificially recreate the warm feelings that arise
When I hear the sounds correctly.
But I can’t.
Attempted Acculturation (Part 2)
But I can’t.
Scorned as they laugh at my American sounding Tagalog.
My broken Tagalog
My accent incriminates me
Your scrutinizing mimicry paints my cheeks red
I turn away
Should I tell you I’m sorry?
Unable to react, I uneasily match your laugh with a heavy heart.
You don’t notice how the smirk on your mouth
Shatters the courage I gathered to impress you.
Exhausted by this bi-cultural confusion,
I want the luxury of being sure of my identity.
Jealous of your certainty, I want to be like you.
I want to forget my assimilation.
Can’t you just accept me?
Your derisive, well-intentioned laughter
Dismisses my sincere efforts as a joke
The embarrassment searing in my chest
Reminds me that we are too different
Two different peoples
You think I’m not a real Filipino
Because I cannot emulate the sounds that I adore
But I’m trying
I’m trying to be a good Filipino
But your stare, your sneer crushes what I hope to be.
I didn’t ask to be raised partially Filipino
I didn’t mean to.
I will never forget how the arch of your brow
Exposed the depths of the hole
My former assimilated self had dug
The shrill of your tone revealed the
Seemingly irreparable damage I’ve done
Is it even possible to escape assimilation?
Can I ever achieve an identity that is not hyphenated?
What kind of identity am I striving for?
Born into a neighborhood whose identity is in cultural limbo,
We are neither and both, simultaneously
My blood, my heritage, my upbringing
Twenty years of my black hair in a sea of blonde
Means I am forever subject
To the implications of my culturally ambiguous childhood
Having rejected my culture for so long,
I figure I brought this on myself.
I deserve to be rejected by my culture now, don’t I?
Their redemption for my former hatred; it’s my turn now
Payback for once hating the community that half- raised me
Is it my fault?
Juggling these fleeting intersecting identities
The only aspect I can anchor onto
Is the part that I don’t necessarily want
But am told to be thankful for.
The prized American
The hyphenated American
The culturally out-of-touch American
Mutual rejection spurred by mutual misunderstanding
These are the results of the diaspora.