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