In the Middle Country
Let me introduce you to a girl who is far away from home:
This is En-Yin-and-Davina,
whose name sounds like a song on the tongues of this culture.
Here she breathes in dust beneath a low red sun,
where city life has drained the color from the earth and sky
and splattered it on vivid billboards high above her head,
and splashed the stolen brightness into wrappings of strange food
in the supermarket and on the street.
She wakes in darkness to the sound of her own loud thinking.
Each day, it warps more into a different voice. New, but slow and accented,
mixing the words of two languages in patterns acceptable to neither.
She wonders which she wants to be.
They call me the one who looks like them.
They know I am not. It is only my face, my eyes, and my hair
that give them pause as I open my mouth.
Something insists that this shell of mine means I should belong with them.
Something else maintains that my people have always looked different.
(Of course, there is one small problem,
always this one problem:
I may call you my people,
but will you call me yours?)
Like the six-floor rhythm of this city's buildings,
Tuesday flowed quickly into Friday, but Saturday was an adventure
with the children, planting trees in the countryside.
We set those fragile saplings in the dusty ground and left our wishes there
for the tiny branches to bear when they grow strong and sturdy.
We watched those paper hearts, tied with yellow ribbons, flutter in the wind:
Let my child - I read with new eyes - grow strong and sturdy with this tree.
In that comforting moment I could have been anyone,
and anyone could have been me. Not that we had become the same,
but that I had burrowed through the layers of language and society
and found, strong and thick, a root of humanity to hold onto.
We all learned somewhere to love.
Later, having discovered
an unexpected sister,
Sometimes, forgetting, I lose
the sense of my own soul, as if identity lay
in birth or upbringing. Those, I saw, would take hold of me
and tear me apart from opposite ends.
But I am whole.
Let me introduce you to a girl who is far away from home.
Let me show you myself, caught now between two cultures but
a visitor in every nation here, an ambassador sent for life.
My people are a family scattered wide and far, close and near,
tied together with strings of blood.
We are calling out in every language:
come, sons, come, daughters,
let us go, rejoicing,
on the long journey
to our golden city.