Plastic Envelope

Literature Default
a poem by Amber Ting

Dear Asian Youth,


My qípáo looks like a red envelope


A Lunar New Year’s tradition:

The hóngbāo is supposed to symbolize hope


It’s passed around for blessings

Now it’s tight-fitting, plastered to my chest


More suffocating than protective

It tells me what is not allowed


The night air bites at my exposed fingertips

Later, my grandmother’s eyes will linger

“Sit up straighter. Are you holding your chopsticks right?”

She is ever composed.


Proper and Asian like my clothes.


I’m sorry, Nai Nai. I’m not. I know I only ever come close

When I am quiet in conversations.


There are plastic clips in my hair. Here, I feel plastic.


- Amber Ting


Author’s Note: The first and last lines were written a long time ago, but this poem was recently edited.


Cover Photo Source: The Conversation