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Names

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

I remember when I first came to the U.S.,

People asked for my last name

So I said, “Wang”

the clerk at the hotel chuckled and said to his colleague,

“We spell that with an ‘O’, not an ‘A’. ”

But I didn’t understand why my syllables had to accommodate their tongues.

I couldn’t grasp why my last name that represents my family

Could become the chatter for their afternoon tea.


So when they asked,


“What is your name?”

I told them it is

Judy.

J U D and Y each letter spelled clear and loud


They asked me to say it louder.

As if afraid that my brown rice colored skin couldn’t hold a voice loud enough

for them to hear.


We are people from the mountain, from basins,

from deserts to river valleys. We have voices

that could tumble out of the Himalayas and give the chilling snow a tremble. We are the people who discovered gunpowder to make fireworks.

Who created gifts for human celebrations rather than for human elimination.


So when they say:


“No, No, No what is your real name?”.

I spelled it out for them.

HEXUAN. and I repeated it for them, loud. Each fragile letter standing alone

Never pieced together as if switching to my birth tongue would have

wounded the civility of this conversation.

It was me trying to contain each letter within itself

So that each character could stop reaching for their other halves

So that two pieces of my identity can remain separate,

untouched.


Once I told someone that I feel

Like a margin of two places.

A body with knees that had learned to kiss the floor in front of elders,

With hands that learned to use chopsticks before a pair of scissors.

And a mouth that somehow could speak the foreign words better

Than my own.


So I stopped accommodating my name for other people

I stored it somewhere in a jewelry box.

I shielded it from the foreigner’s thirsty tongue and dirty mouth,

And cleaned it like a crown,

Waiting for a day I am proud enough to wear it.

 

This poem was written as a spoken word for my english class shortly after we read the Poet X. I was inspired by Xiomara's story of her name, and wanted to tell a story of my own. Recalling the daily struggles I face as a Chinese International Student, I centered the story of my name to the question "what is your name?" A simple question for some, for me and many other students with anglicized names, I waver between the two options. Often, I felt like I was betraying a certain part of me by giving out the answer "Judy." This poem, thus, serves as a reconciliation of my rarely used legal name, 鹤轩, and my english name, Judy.

 

Biography:

Judy (Hexuan) Wang is a 16-year-old high school student who has recently discovered her new sanctuary -- writing. Having grown up in a family that puts heavy emphasis on the factuality of writing, she decides to diverge from that path in search of a new one. One where she can lift the boulder from her chest as she sorts through the messy knot of her identity as an Asian International Student living in the United States.


Instagram: @judywangstudio


Cover Photo Source:


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