“Asians Do Poetry Too!” Vol. 2

Part 2 of the ExpectAsian Poetry series, I’m bringing you some Asian flames in the cold white winter of Poetry Land.

Thanks to Evan for kicking off the series, but I’m here to add some more fire. The piece below is titled “My Mother’s Accent” and it discusses assimilation and anti-Asian sentiments. What inspired me to write this poem is a small conversation I overheard at Walmart.

My mother: Excuse me, vair is the milk?

Employee 1: Oh it’s just right over there ma’am.

*My mother walks away and when they think she is out of earshot the other employee says:

Employee 2: VAIR (Laughs)

Employee 1: (Laughs)

So here’s to you employees at Walmart, you ignorant piece of shit.


My Mother’s Accent

Ever since I was young I have been a translator

When my mother needed to buy something, negotiate, or have a discussion

They will not look at the person who is speaking instead they would look at me

Their eyes would plead; they won’t say a word

But they expect me to translate

They expect me to translate my mother’s English into their English

They expect me to translate her accent


Accent thick like honey

Dripping down these walls

Too sticky to clean up

But sweet like tradition


In this beehive of her voice

You’ll realize you’re not queen bee

You’re a worker bee

Concentrating too hard to understand her

Because her accent only belongs in tv shows and movies

Whenever you need a laugh


You’ll look at me and expect me to translate her song into sounds you recognize

Claiming that its just too difficult to understand

But its beautiful, its like a pop song jumpy and happy


Even though to her, English sounds like imperialism

It sounds like invaders ripping apart your land and killing your family until the earth is red

sounds like stealing all your resources and leaving you pitiful and helpless

sounds like telling you that your culture is backwards and unsophisticated but their culture is the goal and development

English sounds like shaking, earthquakes in your stomach as you give the last of your grains as tax

It sounds like humiliation as you watch your father’s tears fertilize the ground

sounds like submission as you taste pork oil and blood on your lips and they tell you wear you belong

It sounds like British reports saying that the Indians were so huddled together that one bullet would go through 3 or four bodies

sounds like gunshots in sync with your heartbeat

English sounds like tearing up your traditions, and burying it to the ground

Erasing your history until it disappears like dust and you’re no longer a person but a dog

A dog that has rejected the very soil

that fed you for centuries

instead submitting to a white queen that will feed you scraps at her golden table that you built for her

English sounds like betrayal

English sounds like lost history

English sounds like ruin


And you ask why my mother doesn’t sound like you

English was never made for her mouth

It was never made for her history


And so her accent is like a defense mechanism

Protecting her from disappearing

Protecting her from a lifetime of servitude

And guarding you from your history against her body

So when she manages to speak English with such confidence and beauty

Really she’s doing you a favor

She’s hiding those years of pain and misery and instead delivers music


So when you ask me to translate ill say

Everything she says is correct

Her English is very good, A1, top class,

Her English is perfect


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