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They Chipped Away

They Chipped Away
a poem by Kaitlyn Fa

Dear Asian Youth,

they chipped away at me.

took up their mighty chisels and hammers,

used their olympian strength and godly fingertips to

shape who i should be, how i should act, what i should think.

they said be curvy but not plus-sized.

they said look exotic but have big eyes, pale skin, blond hair.

they said try to be more confident but we’ll think you’re bossy in the end.

they said be a woman, and we’ll strike you down every single day.

they chipped away at me.

and sometimes i like to remember that

each terracotta warrior was made uniquely,

each mustache, suit of armor, stern expression,

was created to be unique, beautiful, strong.

and then i remember that i was not made in the same way because

they carved me to be one of many.

the same small-eyed, mathematically inclined, future doctor sculpture,

just one out of a million.

they chipped away at me.

now with unwelcome gazes and piercing catcalls.

they carved me to suit their purposes.

they sanded me down to mere labels and functions,

pretty or ugly, smart or dumb, easy or hard to get.

they pillaged and stole pieces of my body from me.

so slowly, so cleverly, so methodically.

that i hardly realized i was reduced to a ruin.

they chipped away at me.

put their hands to their eyes and pulled them thin,

their doughy grins stretching too.

and then i understood that

you don’t look like us meant we will never let you be like us and

you can’t possibly be american meant you will never be american to us and

your eyes are so small meant you will never be an individual to us.

and i understood that asian-american meant dangerously foreign,


they chipped away at me.

reduced me to rubble and vacuumable bits.

they thought they could pound me into nothing.

they forgot what i was really made out of.

they forgot that with enough heat and pressure i would

transform, awaken, strengthen.

i would want to be entirely myself again.

they chipped away at me.

but then i took the chisel into my own hands and

i began to sculpt myself.

i ran my tools over every scar, curve, and blemish that I could find.

then i said:

this is who i am.

small-eyed, thick thighs, stretch marks like bolts of lightning.

this is who i am.

a painter, and a mathematician, and an activist all in one body.

this is who i am.

chinese-american, born in salt lake city, from ann arbor.

this is who i am.

still learning to love myself, learning to trust others, learning to have more hope.

this is who i am.

a sculpture more magnificent than anything you could ever make.

- Kaitlyn Fa

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