American Alien

I am an alien
My eyes, my skin color, my being
Jump out like a wilting wisteria in the midst of
A perfumed garden of pruned, perfect, and pretty pansies
I know I do not belong in this sea of porcelain

I grow like the thin, wispy fractures on a glass window
Little by little, then all at once
I learn that children are beautiful angels
Their words are silver bullets piercing through my pounding heart
Spreading misery and misfortune
Each stare and each remark push me off the ledge
Sending me down a black hole of self-loathing
We are taught to be honest as children
And I was the most honest of them all
Lying to myself about who I was and who I needed to be

Thousands of years of history enclosed in the Pandora’s Box of my mother tongue
Become as useless to me as gum wrappers on bustling streets
Generations of rich, vivid culture become daggers
Arming the clash of my internal struggle
Warm, steaming dumplings bathed in brothy, light soup drown me
Bright, soft cloth depicting images of old stories with silk stitchings
Suffocate me through the skin I no longer recognized
I despise that country because those around me despise it
A communist, conservative, cult of creatures
All so foreign to my adopted American attitude

The sun sleeps as I walk into the theater
I see them
People with my eyes, my skin color, my being
On the big screen and loved by all
This connection was the key
Saving me from my lifelong inner battle
I am a golden, glistening sandcastle washed away by the beating, gray waves
Yearning to be rebuilt
I learn to love this foreign country that owns me

I celebrate each holiday
I learn about the battles of my ancestors and the struggles of my kin
I pull my culture out like an old sweater
In the depths of a dark, musty closet
Wearing it proudly for all to see
This group of people like me are my brothers and sisters
Born in America but always connected to our mother country
Thousands of years of history that flow within me
Like the cold, crisp water in a quiet, clear creek
It is all mine
It is all me
I am an alien that belongs

Jenna Bao is a rising high school senior from San Jose, California. Coming from a vibrant community filled with diversity, Jenna has grown up surrounded by the stories and experiences of people from all walks of life. Through her poetry and prose, she aims to give others a peek into her own colorful world by bringing these treasured memories to life. Find her at instagram.com/jennabao.