An Ode (A Reflective Poem)

Written by: Lei (2017)

To the next person that asks me,
“Wait so...what exactly are you?”
I respond with a firm,
fuck you.

What am I?
For starters, I am not the following:

Brazilian, Dominican, Cape Verdean, Jamaican, Hawaiian, South African, Ethiopian, Moroccan or Native American

I am not a what, I am a who
You see me and you see
Unconquered land,
A prime prospect for fetishization.
Your mouth waters as you imagine erecting your flag on my body,
And then plantations, industralise my identity;
And then prisons, cage my identity;
And then graves, squander my identity.

I see you, yes you, over there,
Scanning my face, taking measurements and calculating averages...
I see the confusion and sickening arousal in your eyes as you analyse,
the slant of my eyes, the slope of my nose, the pigmentation of my skin, though I am some exotic new toy.

So much venom in those words.
An intriguing anomaly that doesn’t quite fit into the racial taxonomy,
Just brown enough to satisfy your fetishizations and curiousity,
Hair curly enough that you don’t get too lost in the kinks.

But you are not welcome here,
Because you only ever want to get near color when it drips of caramel and honey,
But sweetie, I am not here to make you feel comfortable,
If you cannot love the sort of melanin that glows a deep midnight blue under the moonlight, father’s blackness...
Then you cannot love mine.

I want to say Fuck You
to the idiot who has the audacity to say
“You don’t look that (insert one of my identities)”
You see, when you tell me I do not look Japanese, or Ghanaian,
you have told me I do not look like myself,
That I am an immigrant in my own body,
That I am an inconvenience to your myopic understanding of identity.

I want to say Fuck You
And so much more,
But I cannot.
Because I am exhausted-
Exhausted of having my identity put on trial,
Exhausted of my existence being made a spectacle,
Exhausted of having to constantly negotiate my worth in a space.

I am exhausted of being
Too light, not light enough, not really black, not really asian, not one of us, but one of them, not one of them, but one of us, neither this nor that nor here nor there.

Of being other.
Of being none of the above.
I am exhausted,
Because all I want,
Is to be embraced,
To be seen as more than just the sum of my parts,                                                                              
Because all I am doing is striving to be normal and thriving to be equal,
Because I am whole and I am full and I am rich,
Born out of love and fostered in that blurry space between my mama and my papa,
Navigating confusion,
But mind you, I am not confusion.

So, in this ode I say:
I am here to stay
You may not want me here
But I am here to stay
I am here to stay.

Cargo Collective COMMU 2021 (USA, JAPAN)