by Lucy Wan
I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen
to the smell of raisin bread and fried rice,
learning to tuck a chopstick-full of meat
into floury blanket- dumpling.
I grew up with hua bei bei and longevity buns,
the peach-shaped pink like the
swelling of my ruddy cheeks.
I grew up with noodles and pancakes on my birthdays,
lit candles on top of grocery store and moon cake.
I grew up confused
by math & unfamiliar faces,
and what scales & mirrors told me-
My mother’s laughter, and father’s silence.
I grew up on weak ankles,
stubby fingers, mismatched eyes.
Split ends, ponytail pulled tight.
I grew up a comparison
to Riko and Angela, their marble glow
to my fish-scale skin.
“Eat less today.” to “Let me feed you.”
I grew up a patchwork quilt,
mish-mash of cultures, belonger of none.
I grew up Powerpuff Girls and Sun Wukong,
herbal medicine and doctor visits,
Japanese curry, burger, baozi, red bean paste, fries.
I grew up in my grandmother’s kitchen,
drinking water from teacups
and looking into them like crystal balls
wondering, “Who am I?”
Tiger Mother Speaks
My daughter calls me Dragon Lady.
She should know better than that.
After all, my battle hymn isn’t tiger mother.
When did I ever stop her from sleeping over,
unless of course their parents weren’t Chinese.
And I’ve only ever kicked her to make her beautiful.
hoped that the bruises on her skin remind her of me.
They look like jasmine blossoms from ankle to knee.
She was only 8 or 7
surely she can’t remember that;
I only meant her well.
The swell of broken skin is nothing the world will not give her,
at least I leave her alone-
She needs to learn that Life is out to get her,
just like it was out to get me. She is not
to withstand the world.
I wonder why she doesn’t ask for anything.
I told her long ago that I could get her whatever she wants-
as long as her grades are high.
I didn’t pay for SAT classes from nine-to-one each night
for her to slack off, after all.
She won’t grow any taller, so her mind must grow wider.
Even when I ask about her scores and teachers
Sometimes she seems to shut me out.
I don’t know why.
I love her,
isn’t that good enough?
Out of this wounded love
between my mother and father,
I was born.
Married a little too young, never dated
never allowed to,
my parents’ bond is held together by sheer will,
and two kids.
Their names are written beside the other
on bank loan, checking account, marriage certificate but
I’ve never seen my parents kiss.
No goodbye whisper on the lips, just
kisses from us kids as we’re passed
Our little family- mother,
father, brother, me-
share one house and yet
these four walls hold only furniture and
Maybe we weren’t meant to be
on T.V. or movie screen.
We’re not your typical
We come from wounded love:
an imperfect first kiss, an unplanned second kid.
It is these broken bonds that
stem from branches and
porcelain family tree
that we grew on. And yet,
this Chinese pottery
will survive for thousands of years.
Lucy Wan is a patchwork quilt, built from the fabric of three places, yes, including Canada. She comes from what must be the only two families in all of China who don’t have sleek, stick-straight hair. She is chlorine perfume and random deodorant, singer- but only obnoxiously loud and in the shower. She is wake-up-ten-minutes-before-she-goes and I’ll-get-to-it-tomorrow. She is peacock arrogance and sloth feel, shell wings, and apparently that one doctor in Grey’s Anatomy. She is still looking for her moth.