Date of adoption: Nov. 4, 1998
Place of adoption: Anhui Province
Shame is applying for a visa home, or not knowing how to write your name
The passport office is small
& getting smaller with each stroke
I try to mimic foreign etchings of my birth
You just have to write your birth name here
I tell him I can’t
Or have someone else write it
Most days, the only person who
looks like me is in the mirror
Or just do your best to copy it.
I’m in 1st grade again
practicing my cursive over
& over again,
trying to stay between
the lines, the other kids
breathing down my neck
their pet name,
What I did next
cannot be called writing,
maybe leading the pencil
like a clumsy dance partner
trying to remember
the memory of
their first steps.
Away from Home
If I am your first baby tooth,
the one that squirmed its way
out of your gums
and into the world
with all the fervor of new life,
whose emptiness your tongue would
lap over and over,
sometimes slowly with intention
sometimes briskly, carelessly while carrying
about its day to day
Then I may as well be
your severed locks,
strewn on the floor
of some cheap corner store SuperCuts,
wondering why you had to
lose me to look good.
Do you think of me
when you run your fingers through
your hair, when they gasp
grasping only air?
Or am I an ounce of the hundreds
of thousands of dead
skin particles you shed
everyday to become a new person?
Do I fester in your carpet,
the corner of your memories,
the crevices your vacuum can’t reach?
I can’t figure out who I am in this relationship, but
all I know is, you are the body from which
I am missing.
- Published in St. Edward’s University creative journal Sorin Oak Review
I think when you’re adopted, you’re more aware from the start that you are a small part of a larger whole, even if you don’t know what that whole is. You know you’re derived from a larger context by the very nature of having been removed from it and transplanted into a different one. It can be your birth family, your first country, a community like you, the painfully salient parts of your identity. You’re looking for a space and a people to call home like everyone else, but you’re aware of your search because you know at a young age what it means to lose a home.
For me, my homes have been found in crossroads. In holding my Asian-American identity with two hands, feeling the weight of both being Asian and American, and learning that it is mine to define, that one does not discount the other. I’ve come into my Chinese adoptee identity, being a girl born in the shadow of the One Child policy, and what it means to hold both China and America and all their people and all their cultures in the small frame of my being.
It’s taken me a long time to find and genuinely enter this home, as it may be taking you, who’s reading this. My advice? Find the people who will help you look, the friends and family dedicated to you; find the open doors, the ways you can enter an identity, and then enter. I won’t lie and say it’s easy to find and enter spaces you feel inadequate in, but it’s so, so worth it, as you are.