The Asian Supermarket

i grew up

between aisles of jackfruit and rambutan,

yan-yan and pocky,

soft dried fruits and fruity hard candies i couldn’t name,

toddler-sized bags of rice and boxes of udon;

drinking in the smells and sights of the bakery’s

impossibly smooth and colorful cakes and puddings;

and on the other side of the store,

watching the fish and shellfish

pile on top of one another in their tanks;

hearing tongues and seeing faces in the background

that reminded me of family

and became synonymous with “home.”


i’ve moved between four different states

in the past year alone,

and every time I’m somewhere new,

i look for the same thing:

the asian supermarket.


if i am a boat,

that is my lighthouse.

every familiar food

and familiar accent

signaling to me

that the dock is open to me here;

that something here might feel like home;

that if i pull into shore,

i won’t be alone.


i know my father

would never understand this feeling.

i know he will never understand

how it felt to find my favorite snack

my grandmother always made on lunar new year

that you cannot find anywhere else

except in an asian supermarket;

i know he will never understand

how much i miss my grandmother’s cooking

and family dim sum outings

and asian bakeries back home,

and how asian supermarkets

give me a glimpse back to those;

i know he will never understand

the relief and warmth and bittersweetness i feel

when i hear someone speak vietnamese

and remember how long it’s been

since i’ve last seen my family;

i know he will never understand

what it’s like to look around a grocery store

and see nobody like you,

nothing reminding you of family or home,

and what it’s like

to then enter another grocery store

and have it feel like a refuge;

i know my father

would never understand this feeling,

but that my mother always does.


i know when she and i go to the asian supermarket

in our new hometown,

that this is the place that always promises

we’ll feel right at home;

that we share the same giddiness

as two white kids in a toy store,

except we’re two asian kids

in a grocery store,

and what are toys

compared to the ingredients of life,

the beauty of my culture,

the food of my childhood,

the language of my people,

the comfort of belonging,

all squeezed into one store.


i grew up

in the asian supermarket

and i’ll spend the rest of my life

seeking it out;

because i am a boat,

and it is my lifehouse.


- Kyla-Yen


Cover photo source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/638103840942416492/