K.Sulllivan, 12th - Morgan Hill, CA
she is the picture of poised perfection;
head in a book, heart on her sleeve.
And in a world
where everyone lives a curated narrative -
the lock to a box
that was determined by mutations long ago,
hers should be the Odyssey.
So, why does her soul sing the Iliad?
Well, she’s torn;
trapped in a seventeen-year battle
at the cellular level;
two imperialist nations
playing battle royale
in the same double helix.
And now the chaos within -
a once carefully guarded secret,
is threatening to leak to the surface;
to amplify the scrutiny they cast her way -
the whispers from corners of inflexible minds
that slip into backhanded compliments.
“She’s Asian - look at her.
With thick, black hair,
a slim frame and focused eyes,
she's ambition and dedication,
quick-wit and resilience.
She's the product of centuries of civilization,
but a stranger to culture.
She looks the part but speaks the wrong tongue,
answers to the wrong name,
and values the wrong things.
she spends her Saturdays at photoshoots
not Chinese school;
she plays Taylor Swift CDs
not the piano;
and she wants to teach,
to treat atrophic minds with knowledge and assurance,
“Well, she could be white - look again.
With freckles adorning fair skin,
expressive eyebrows and a flushed face,
she's innocence and pride,
hope and passion.
She's the cheer captain and vegetarian.
Does it get more American than that?
But, she's too cultured;
gets the grade too easily,
parties too little,
and achieves too much.
she eats dim sum
not Panda Express;
she gets red envelopes
not birthday cards;
and she wants to be the President,
to make decisions and lead by example,
not be the First Lady.”
So when the time comes to settle in a box,
which will fit?
Both communities welcome her
with open arms
but shoulders drawn;
that doesn't quite reach the eyes.
The answer seems obvious ... she can be both!
But is such a thing graciously accepted?
It would be like having eggnog on Halloween,
or rather dumplings on the Fourth of July.
And how can eons of silence and exploitation and conflict
spitelessly coexist without collective sacrifice?
the sun rises
and the world turns,
and she is still ambition and dedication,
quick-wit and resilience,
innocence and pride,
hope and passion
and million other things.
So, could it be
that the dark hair and sun-kissed skin
aren’t indicators of identity,
but signifiers of stereotypes
so deeply embedded in both cultures
that it shares the very veins pumping to her heart
and threatens to alter the rhythm?
And what if,
after longs nights of tough talks,
she can find it within herself
to rest the spike in the tracks
and raise the hammer;
to allow a history of oppression and privilege
to point fingers and shake hands and work in harmony
to build a world where little dreamers
can’t believe for a second
that their hair or skin or aspirations
will dilute the magic coursing through their veins,
or allow others to judge their story
before they even pick up a pen.
Students 6th-12th Grades