My mother and I don’t have dinner table conversations
out of courtesy. We don’t want to remind each other
of our accents. Her voice, a Vietnamese lullaby
sung to an empty bed. The taste of her hometown
still kicking on the back of her teeth.
My voice is bleach. My voice has no history.
My voice is the ringing of an empty picture frame.
I am forgetting how to say the simple things
to my mother. The words that linger in my periphery.
The words, a rear view mirror dangling from the wires.
I am only fluent in apologies.
Sometimes when I watch home movies, I don't even understand
myself. My childhood is a foreign film. All of my memories
have been dubbed in English.
My mother's favorite televisions shows are all 90s sitcoms.
The ones that have laugh tracks. The prerecorded emotion
to cue her when to smile.
In the first grade I mastered my tongue. I cleaned
my speech, and during parent-teacher conferences
Mrs. Turner was surprised my mother was Asian.
She just assumed I was adopted. She assumed
that this voice was the same one I started with.
As she holds a pair of chopsticks, a friend asks me
why I am using a fork. I tell her it's much easier.
With her voice the same octave as my grandmother’s,
she says “but this is so much cooler.”
I am just the clip-art. The poster boy of whitewash. My skin
has been burning easier these days. My voice box is shrinking.
I have rinsed it out too many times.
My house is a silent film.
My house is infested with subtitles.
That’s all. That’s all.
I have nothing else to say.
Childhood & Coming of Age
conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or movie
a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic
the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing
a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times
diverse use of punctuation.