Written with a TWSBI Eco Black Yozakura (Black Sakura) with 1.1 stub nib, from Bungubox 2018. On Nanami Paper’s Seven Seas notebook with Tomoe River 52gsm paper. Can’t remember ink choice.
They said – it was not about the color of your skin,
or the fact that you were a woman, none of those things;
your death was simply
a tragedy, an accident, a sad coincidence
caused by someone with a mental illness.
Such an insult to your truth, to what it means to have a mental illness,
to your being an Asian woman in a world where you were seen as a woman, an Asian,
a person who was not white, not male, not anything
for whom the media so readily provides an excuse.
They choose the narrative that brings them the least discomfort,
not one that shows the darkness of the world in which you can be executed
by someone who had the audacity to claim his act of murder was about lust.
The killer lusted for blood, the same red blood in his veins,
only beneath a different appearance from his.
And yet so many of them are saying, no,
that is the self-victimization mentality.
They’re saying that to you who literally were the victim of a hate crime,
whose life was taken away – not even because you were at the wrong place at the wrong time,
but because the murderer invaded your space,
as if this earth were not big enough for everyone regardless of their gender, and race,
and everything else that makes us different and makes us one.
You are dead. Many of you died. Many of you will die, if they keep breeding the lies,
convincing themselves and others that this could have happened to anyone,
that they choose to not see colors when one of the colors were red, that of your blood
spilling over their head, their conscience – does everyone not have one?, their rhetoric.
But the truth is this:
this. is. a. hate. crime.
this. is. a. murder.
and anyone who claims otherwise is an accomplice
in an act against humanity, against what we all want for our country,
our children, our future.
And now every time I walk out on the street, I would wonder
if my mask and clothes were enough to conceal me, to protect me:
my woman’s body, my Asian skin, my identity
that should matter and not matter just as much as anybody’s,
but it doesn’t:
in Atlanta, just the other day,
people who looked just like me were murdered
just because of how they looked.
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a great day wherever you are.
It has been quite a year. “2020” in itself has become a meme. It is the year during which we have to reinvent everything, and discover that once again, we are a species that can learn to adapt. We learn to wear masks. We learn to social distance. We learn to stay in quarantine. We begin to check in with one another more on each other’s mental health, asking “How are you” and actually meaning to know the true answer to that. We learn to appreciate those who have chosen professions that put them on the frontline of dealing with COVID-19 and those impacted by it. We are reminded of how fleeting life can be, and how resilient humans can be, at the same time. We work and study from remotely, while some of us adapt to working and studying in a different way in person. Some of us remain in the city, rediscovering our own neighborhoods. Some of us go out to the countryside, learning to grow our own food, tend our chickens, and adapt to a whole new way of life. Nothing was the same. Nothing will ever be the same. It is the nature of a world in, and after, a pandemic. An event that sweeps through the entire globe, leaving no corner untouched, leaving no one unknown to its effects.
In a year like this, on Christmas Day, Boston is almost 60 degrees, with pouring rain. Unusual for December, for Christmas, for winter. Another reminder that nothing about this year has been common, or dare we say, boring. Many people are no longer with us. Many have been infected with the new coronavirus and recovered. Many are still fighting the virus. Many are not touched directly by the virus yet very well affected by the presence of it in the world. This is the year where we are reminded, often with agony and sorrow, sometimes with strength and hope, that we are in it together.
So wherever you are, however you are, today, know that you are not alone. That if you are hearing these words, you belong in the world that you’re living in.
Eventually you learn
how to feel your way in the dark. Everything looks the same,
but feel different; unlike the usual days
when all looked different yet felt the same
as if time never moved, neither space
nor you in it.
In the dark you start to remember
where you came from, before your mother
heard you cry
(you sounded like a child who had strong opinions
and an abundance of tears
and something resembling the other side of the gate.)
It feels cathartic, like redemption
from an opportunity unchosen
where you make the best of it.
There is an unspoken word of grace
when you bow down on your knees, and legs,
your forehead touching the cold floor,
your heart shaking as if every beat were a prayer
that would somehow be answered, as if
your faith had been restored.
It still worries you that if you didn’t believe enough
god wouldn’t hear your voice, and how sad would that be – to carry a voice unheard,
an identity unbeknownst,
a lifetime unchanged
by a power larger than yourself
manifesting itself in so many ways
even your darkest doubts gradually turned into beliefs.
(October 21, 2018)
I feel that everything I’ve ever done goes into the flow that would keep bringing me down the stream, that one day I’ll reunite with the ocean of my truth, my being, my permanent impermanence.
I feel that this life, with all its trials and tribulations, can still embrace me with a tenderness that moves anger to tears. Can I be angry and still be loved? And still be able to love? And not wanting anything back but candor and fairness?
There are no eyes in parts of the woods. I can stand there and listen to the trees. They speak the same language, one that is written in its own meanings, allowing no deceit. They tell me what I will have always known. When I weep, they hold me with the same winds that make their leaves sing.
I sometimes break myself apart in order to put it back into another order of my choosing. Or at least what feels more like a choice I am free to make. Freedom, in this world, is still relative. It exists within boundaries that are a bit wider than the last ones that I grew out of. As I keep on growing, I am yearning for a larger container, like how my plants tell me when they need bigger homes to accommodate their thriving roots. The bigger the roots grow, the deeper and wider the containers or the holes in the soil need to be — to have more of the earth, to become more one with the earth.
Whatever one’s personhood entails, it goes beyond a list. Yet sometimes there are attempts to break it down into bulletpoints, because everything is easier when you look at its parts rather than the whole, which is always larger than the sum of its parts. How do you define a person?
“Who are you?”
That’s all there is.
All there is, is a world in which I am, you are, we are.
did you walk on this earth five hundred years ago?
did you hear the voices of the ancestors?
did you taste the sweat from long journeys across the continents?
did you write the words that would later be misinterpreted?
did you ask questions because the answers were never enough?
did you assemble your own truth among others’ lies?
did you look for the things you could never find?
did you meet those you were always meant to meet?
did you say anything you truly meant?
did you do everything you could ever do when you said you did?
did you believe enough to take a leap of faith?
did you see in your heart that which resembled a heart?
did you seek to be understood or be loved?
did you feel what it was like to have said goodbye without knowing it?
did you realize the way everything turned into something exactly the same?
did you know that you too one day would become someone different?
did you love because love was all you could ever do?
did you hate because love was all you had given away?
did you know there would always be another way?
did you understand the meaning of that moment that day?
not a dream – when words fall down, and the curtain closes:
hands reach out to find only remnants of days
from many nights ago, when breath used to be faster
like that of a monster being chased after
by one yet even bigger, scarier,
calling out in whispers, “wait
for me –”
What a time, what a time
to watch the world change
day by day, number by number,
name by name, one of which
can be yours, any moment now,
and yet the heart stops
even when it isn’t, because every life
matters, in a world where nothing seems
the same. A ‘new normal’ is deemed
to happen, either a promise
or a warning. Wherever the eyes land
there are masks, and gloves,
and sometimes the absence of such:
so much meaning behind
objects, so much on the line
every time we choose to walk outside
in search of the normalcy we used to have.
What a time, what a time
to be alive, to grieve over those who have died,
those who are dying, those who are struggling,
those who are taking care of others,
those who are being taken care of;
to grieve over ourselves
as part of a wave
that has taken over this island earth.
This is not an ode, but rather a moment of quietness
in which I think about you, and me, and us,
and where we are going from here,
how we are leaving from here,
what we are becoming from here.
And I see nothing but hope, among it all,
so much hope, because more than anything
we have shown love and strength
and watch the air cleared up and the birds come up and sing every morning
and the neighbors and friends asking one another,
“how are you doing?”, this time really mean it,
unlike any time when it was but a passing social note
having faded just as quickly as it had appeared.
What a time, what a time
to be witnesses to time, to where history happens to have us,
and to an opportunity to reveal what must be changed
for life to sustain, for our children to thrive in the world,
for our fellow human beings to safely come together
for a long, long hug.
Let me remember you
even long after our time has passed
and our wisdom turned into dust
along with us. Let memories
stay among themselves on the pages
that preserve your words, and mine,
in silence, while our emotions
are so fiery they would make anyone
blush. Do you remember
when I said I forgot
everything? I did, but these letters
keep my mind awake.
It won’t be long
before we too will become the trees
from which this paper is made,
be inked upon, and thus become
somebody else’s memories –
isn’t that great? That you and I
will not only be forever, but we
get to immerse ourselves
into the multitudes of others?
I am so grateful
that this time around
I get to meet you.
Even in the coldest days across this city
he has a warmth that you can seek
even when his bones are cold.
You have a warmth that only comes out of your skin for him
You reach across the pillow
and touch his smile;
he draws you in
until it touches yours
Is this love? Many a time you’ve asked.
It’s not a question needing an answer
but more its source. Why do you wonder
when this feels so good, so much better
than anything you felt before
or anyone has ever brought your way
and put down long enough to convince you
that they are here to stay
that not every lover will eventually leave.
If this is love, then you love him,
in a way that no one ever loved you.
You begin to feel
that sense of solidness,
in which you can close your eyes,
and there he will be, in the very darkness of your soul
lighting it up.
And if you call his name the universe will respond
bringing you a warmth
you can count on
even in the coldest of days