By | 1 February 2022

homesick. home sick. sickhome. sick at home. sick of home.
sick— of all the times i am woken up by the birds chirping out my window until— i remember
that the room where i spend my darkest days is but a forest’s exoskeleton,
a reminder of human intrusion,
that we are trespassers no matter where we stand.

if there’s no place like home,
then why is it in my own yard where the stars don’t shine their smiles
in my own deaf bedframe i lie regurgitating days’ worth of worries and crude thoughts until my
body is a hollow shell with nothing left to retch
my feelings are suppressed
only when i gnaw the insides of my cheek till they swell and burst and bleed.
when the broken shards of porcelain and spilled sticky rice leave me in tears on the kitchen floor,
you scold me tell tales of the farmers who feed us their backs forever hardened at that ninety
degree curvature from the hours spent coaxing the earth.

妈妈 (mā ma)2, i wonder what was it like when you first came to america
your throat harboring a voice that spoke megalopolis in one country
but was silenced by a maimed tongue in another
how were those nights where you traded crimson firecrackers and explosive laughter
for loneliness and alienation that tinged your cockroach-infested bedroom a shade of indigo?
at night your furrowed brows show you sleep with dreams battered by the breadth of the Pacific
its roaring waves inflicted bruises on your mind, giving you too much hope for the world

妈妈, this is a nation people like you have built
GENESIS has footing on the shoulders of those with wanderlust
not by choice but as a survival mechanism
like moths drawn towards light, the land of opportunity drew us in
but the man holding the lantern fueled by xenophobia
saw our blackened scalps and sallow faces
and turned the light so high up that genealogy, unable to see, burst into flames.
the mud our houses are built on swirls
thick with exodus and survival and the stories of you and a thousand others
it is mud doused in apartheid and ostracism-charged diction and penniless brothers
smothering you with the conviction
to scrub your limbs white until there is no more dirty yellow.

except you are not left with pristine white; instead,
festering wounds of identity led astray
and an abandoned concept of home.

妈妈, do you ever miss your home country?
where your tongue is no longer put into an aviary
where streets are lined with lanterns guiding you back to the sounds of home even when
mushroom clouds shroud the moon
in the land of rolling hills jaded with sweet sweet scents of 梅花3
we can still see your footprints impressed into paddies,
filled with the mud that bore you into existence rather than devouring you whole

妈妈, i have heard people say “home is not a place, but rather a feeling.”
in that case, let me love you the way the songbirds
have learned to love perching on fleshless/desiccated/lifeless bones.

1 These lines from a Chinese children’s poem roughly translate to “Who actually realizes that each grain of rice /
is the product of arduous labor?”
2 mom in Chinese
3 plum blossoms in Chinese

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