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“So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
Never enough for both.”

– Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Lunch for one at a french cafe:
homework pages dotted with coffee marks,
a cold crepe on your plate.
croissant crumbs fall on your new pants, you brush them off
squeezed fist through tiny bouts of rage

Try to accept them
even if they’ll never love you or see you as one of them
even though the one you left behind isn’t here
even though you sit alone in front of an empty room at night
and the white girls of your country only look at you with disdain.

“Respect the places you occupy,
don’t be like the ones that don’t know better.”
Foolish, don’t you know there’s no finish line in the game of assimilation
when your face is not the same?

you’re thinking of
“Chine ou Japon?” despite the 818 drawl,
cobblestone streets and callused toes in european shoes you bought to fit in,
the times you dreamt of parties, instead of cans of beer finished alone,
those text messages you reread when your inbox is empty
the je ne sais quoi you miss like fatigue
just wishing you could walk down those roads and boutiques uninterrupted,
but instead, you fumble out euros and rest the spoon inside the cup,
frantic but exhausted, again on your way.

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Photo by sophiadphotography on

Shout out to the kids who at age 22, make more money than their parents. At the age of 18, 16.
Shout out to the kids who have always made the same amount as their folks under federal law.
Shout out to the kids who weren’t paid, working alongside their parents at counters and grills.
Shout out to the kids who grew up privileged, because they had papers.
Shout out to the kids who don’t even have those.

Shout out to the kids who ate free and reduced lunch every day. Your lunch was only 50 cents to their $2.00, but you still go hungry. White bread with ketchup and Hot Cheetos when the meat spoils. Your classmate buys you instant ramen even though it’s your dinner later today.

Shout out the kids who held parties with 99-cent streamers. Your parents don’t read English so they read “Happy Anniversary!” instead. Flat Coca-Cola in paper cups and an old stereo crooning Radio Disney in your backyard that hasn’t been watered in years. Your classmate’s mom takes work off the next day, handing you and every classmate a slice of pink cake.

Shout out to the kids who don’t have a mom to wrap presents for them. Her hands are too knobbed from working 12-hour shifts, or she’s in the Philippines, or passed out at the table. Shout out to the kids who have superhero parents that do not one, but two jobs – always multitasking but never at home.

Shout out to the kid who didn’t get to go to Rome. Even when Mrs. Weiss-Lee said you were the best and brightest. You already knew this! You already knew this! But you had to ask anyway. Why can’t you have a quinceañera too?

Shout out to the students to had to be twice as good. For the SAT scores without the classes, the student tutor that didn’t charge you after school. Shout out to the prom dress you bought at Ross, thrift store shoes that cut your feet, the boutonniere they said you were “supposed” to have. But you saved it instead for the applications, why did you have to grow up so soon?

Shout out to the kids who became scholarship ninjas. Raking up 6 or 9k because your folk’s 9 to 6 can’t pay for it. Shout out to the kids who worked a job through college, even when you slammed that blender down crying because you weren’t going to pass that midterm. Shout out because you said “no” to orgs and internships that wanted you for free. For ending the call to the counselling office when you heard about the co-pay.

Fingers up to the ones who suggested that somehow – the draw of the dice – was responsible for the school to your name.

When you walk on that stage, some will see you for your achievement.
But the rest of us see you for your success.

We didn’t ask for this. Some people accomplish what they were always expected to. Some people go above and beyond. But aiming for the stars is always more incredible when you couldn’t see their sparkle from below the ground.

22, you’re buying your parents an appliance that costs more than their two week’s paycheck, smiling from ear to ear like giving a toy to your first child. You don’t show them the price tag, there are more fancy features than they could learn to understand. They feel its hard metal doors with their hands, mouths stretched in glee at the ice machine. Maybe they understand, maybe they don’t. Even if they don’t say it, you outshone the hope they wished in your bright eyes.

And if you can pull them out of how you found them – with your blood, sweat, tears, rage, loneliness, hunger, and pain,
Then take my hand, my foot, my everything,
I can trust each you to do the same.

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We fell, when fall became evening dew and sweaters,
sipping your mother’s tea to R&B inside.
School became an afterthought for our nights,
balancing bottles of beer on our knees
as I type out essays on crossed legs on your floor,
and you on your bed, strumming your ukulele.
We eavesdropped on the neighbors, the crickets that sang in the stairway,
routining together, behind closed doors
until one night I grabbed your shoulders, you whisked me underneath
then kicked the covers off the sheets,
let them lie there in the winter.

So we had a selfish nine months together.
the feeling when your roommate asked where you always were, after mine left
but we knew they all knew.

We ate sandwiches on mossy rock, scaled waterfalls and beaches,
zipped across concrete channels in our metal boats,
to warm beds in the summer, like tired migrants,
we adjusted our eyes: yours on bright fires and summer,
mine on the blues and blacks of the unknown, and the impeding fall.

I know we loved and we lost,
the gamble when I let you crawl in my bed, wrap your arms around me,
I cried, wrote poems that you never knew were about you.
I had to worry about my career, you had your mother and your friends.
We never would have made it, back then, I
couldn’t care when you held me tight, felt your beard pressed against my neck
in silence, in busy houses, cities, dorms.

It played out, like the song my best friend’s band made,
breaking our hearts too soon, detachment to eventually become
a starched suit with no wedding band, a free soul in a greener city,
to leave footprints on other hearts and roads, miss each other on airplanes,
adults growing up to become adults that we thought we were going to be,
but part of me still lives on in that cramped apartment room,
sitting on the carpet talking about our dreams.

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa
Katsushika Hokusai
color woodblock, 1892-32

I wanted you to take me
Simultaneously, as you destroyed me

When we awoke,
I, the boat, lay splintered on the beach.
While you, the foam, caressed me gingerly.

crush me into little pieces
if only to have you lick the wounds you inflicted.

A destructive love,
I only feel so vulnerable when
my limbs lie on your bed;
now you take them back to sea.

If I have you, I will lose you,
but in death, what I give
comes back to me.

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Snapshot 1It ain’t even summer yet

and I’m already excited about the lineup at Grand Performances
sixpacks of Stone and yes, you can have my dollars for Yuna’s clearbright eyes and neon lights lit up on damp concrete in DTLA.
colorado bulldogs & LILT’s at the Boulevard, (rainbow lights,)
where up colorado, we’ll hit our favorite coffee spots again.
take me to WeHo and I promise to brave West Side,
traffic // hold my hand through those sweatslicked long lines
snuggle up in my blanket, to the nightsounds of the valley
zooming fast cars of SGV abandon, for
midnight kisses to that cold ice glass of nai cha.

we’re rolling towards the North, backseated Celica blues
playing your tunes from the gnashes and grinds of high school
she said, “would you ever believe we’ve come this far”
and I said “hold still and wait” because we we’re not there yet —
enter through Oakland, the bridge with flashing lights bounces off the lens as I squint, through these itty-bitty high midnight streets.
Market to Mission, and there are callouses on my toes,
we’re climbing up hills and stairs topsy-turvy, i’m lost in the green of your eyes and the fresh of your hair
the coolness of the air when we’re perched with those birthdaycake houses and now I can say that I’m glad we’re still friends.

Standing on a hill in Monterey Park overlooking the city — as the lights catch fire, I can see how far we’ve come:
where this city cloaked in smog
this city soaked in displacement, the angry wets and rages of people come together in a messy simpering sog on the sidewalks.
It’s not the best but it’s goddamn the home I’ve made in this very time
where from Downey to Studio City you can get your gelato and horchata and creampuffs at 17, and pass by some people
you never notice until 22, but they’ve always been there.
Make community in the places you use to hop over, over passes and freeways and feel guilty about it because where were you when they were suffering — when you could afford to not understand?
but this city is so much more than you, you think
as you descend down that little elementary school —
try to understand even if you don’t speak the language they do, even if you can’t help them, you love this city because we are serendipitous under the stars that we cannot see — separated by heat, smoke, and wind, four million neighbors, 114 communities bunched all together in an arbitrary splosh of highways and skyways and suburbs on this glassy blue and green globe

and somehow, I still found my way back to you.

My community, my home, Los Angeles,
I’m coming home.

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My heart beats in unsure sidesteps, a-doki, a-doki – holds and release
I feel you with each squeeze, the crunch of your nails digging into the pockmarks of my skin
The ones you created, loosened, made indents in the smoothness of my back, like a paragraph
I was scared that if afraid that if you lost grip, I could not wrestle you back.

The radio whines and mutters in my brain, as thudding water fills my ear drums
Your breath on my face was enough to prove the ocean before us
But now I wish we had taken pictures by the pier before it got dark.
Obama’s voice cracks like clear lightening, crumbles like a wave,
Something about the gun control, something about the homeless.

My sheets are wet when I wake up, I wonder if you were there
The sweat and the body fluids and the tears and maybe you were there to
To cradle me, between the sheets, until you evaporated out.

Ryan is a delightful student to have in my class / very bright / seems to excel at math / very good at English as well

But the echo of your footsteps all always up and down the halls for me.
But the faces in the pictures are always sending wee ghosts to jump back at me at white walls
And your voice, on all the phones, I don’t know why I hear you in these young men that call me

Meanwhile it always rains and I hate the rain.
I am leaving Seattle because I am sleepless, I will pick up the phone, maybe call the radio
Slam the door of the car, stumble in, fumble with the keys – if I can remember how to drive – you always drove me before – slide like a dream into the open street

“Let’s go Ryan”

They said they’ll be sending you off abroad so I don’t know why they don’t just goddamn do it – when you’re at home you’re never home.
Maybe when you’re deployed I’ll be able to get over you. I-I said maybe when you’re deployed I’ll be able to forget about you.

“Foxtrot-Uniform-Charlie-Kilo Yankee-Oscar-Uniform.”
“Foxtrot-Uniform-Charlie-Kilo Yankee-Oscar-Uniform.”

This poem is an update from “Nightmare,” written for class.

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Picture by Linzi on

We had a selfish six weeks together.

I wanted you to strip,
to corrupt yourself before me,
“tell me your darkest fears and mistakes”
and muddy the facades I thought you had
while clutching onto my own mask.
My dishonest attempts at sensitivity
and vulnerability.

Even when we came to the close,
I would rather die a cold and political death
than martyr my pride for emotions.
You were the only one I never let see cry.

How could I trust you to love the blue of my bruises
when you inflicted them on others?
You thought me as different than those girls
the ones I saw face the same fears and misery.

I thought maybe my loneliness could compliment loneliness,
that we could melt the ice around our hearts together:
I mistook your introversion for sadness.

They teach men to be strong in this country.
and that women can’t be, and can’t be loved — if they do not look like women.

Even when you ran your fingers through the shortness of my hair,
I wondered, if you could sense the scared girl underneath.

When you learn to love again after sexual assault, you have to be selfish.
You distance yourself from people, refuse to let them see your pain.

an art piece by Mark Aguhar:
“Who is worth my love, my strength, and my rage?”
Titled “Not You.”

I’m sorry you have to be my training wheels —
you swore you enjoyed me, but you don’t understand that I will be better:
stronger, happier, kinder, smarter than I was before.
It was never for you, but for everyone that comes after you.

We broke apart, so I could grow apart from you —
your beliefs founded upon a false persona — that somehow you were pulling me back, a lie, but was enough for me to make it a reality:
In the future, you will love me more
even though the both of us will never love each other again.

One day, I will find another lover who I do not have to be selfish with
who I will feel comfortable disrobing with, peeling away the mask,
who will massage my bruises without asking me why they are there
who will cause me to forget what pride is, and fall into their arms
and weep angry, passionate, and relieved tears into their skin.

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