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Model Minority

I am afraid that I am beginning to remember myself in a sea of absolutes, “always, nothing, never, forever” . . . I forget that I have had to amass these words, like slivers of glass in the palm of a hand, caked blood underneath my nails.
The Book of Salt: A Novel by Monique Truong

I have been speaking too many
broken words
in a single language for over
two decades. I never learned
how to say home, how to say
belonging
in my father’s tongue—he
left me to find the words
alone. Simple, sweet,

the Punjabi slips
pungent
against my teeth, weeps
when I stumble
at its edges: arches
and whorls            I cannot read.

My blank
mouth shudders,
resists
my heart. When you ask me
who I am,
where I am from,
half or whole: I split pink palms,
hope
for a mantra to make me
the woman I wish

I looked like. She
dances, graceful—rends
silk from flesh
slowly. But she wants
my skin, my freckled
cheeks. She smears
cream across her jaw, brow
to make her sing: First
World
lullabies torn
from the pages of a magazine
pasted, gathered

where women—if brown
—are
ghostly, silent:
Bollywood mannequins: Model
Minorities. Women who seep
crimson from chests exoticized
terrorized,
stabbed in convenience store parking
lots—coagulating sainthood

in censorship. September
is a month my sisters,
brothers,
kin—observe quietly in America,
folding
incense, guava, into the earth
to stay alive. In sterile
airports the guard
hooks my arm, nods at my
father demands
documentation. Brown
makes us

Other.

My body: familiar.
My name: apart. My heart, a sea
of half-remembered love
songs, ghazals he soothed
me to sleep with.

But I still cannot say Please
Love
Me
in my father’s
tongue.


Simi Kang is a Desi-American poet, visual artist, and anthropologist based in the Twin Cities. She is committed to supporting and studying refugee and diaspora issues in the United States, and plans to do her dissertation work at the University of Minnesota with the Vietnamese-American community. Simi’s work has appeared in the Summit Avenue Review, Kartika Review, and is forthcoming in an edited volume collected by Ananya Dance Theatre, University of Minnesota Press.

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