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Chopsticks

A chopstick is just a utensil.
But a chopstick can
trigger that
uncontrollable laughter
and smiles at the dinner table.
When one snaps, we chuckle.
When someone can’t use them properly,
we giggle.
When someone eats with them,
we ridicule.

Chopsticks are an icon of Asia.
They’re an art,
they’re part of
history and culture.
They’re a pocket-sized
representation of
who I am.
And yet chopsticks are
a barrier,
a tiny Great Wall of China.
They’ve become a reason to mock,
bully, to single each “yellow boy” out.
Chopsticks don’t just
take rice to mouths,
they’re not just pretty and a supply of
family-fun when a child uses them wrong.
They fuel the jokes that claim I don’t belong,
that I should be somewhere exotic like Hong Kong,
somewhere away from here playing ping pong
or mahjong.
Chopsticks are a reminder of who I am,
and yet,
when I’d visit friends for dinner and such,
I’d clutch
to the metal knife and fork.
I’d be jealous of
the bangers and mash, burgers and chips
that they ate each night.
Consuming “white people’s food”
helped me bottle up my heritage, force in a cork
and bury it in side of me, hide it away but
I failed to do that.
People still saw it in my eyes and my lips.
They would pretend that having Asian features
is an excuse to be rude.
I was in a place of solitude
because of
the shapes of my eyes
and
the stereotypical belief that I was filled with
knowledge of mathematics and science.
That I would achieve more and flourish under pressure
because of my background
but with academic pressure,
social pressure, my own pressure;
self-inflicted pressure that I had to
live up to the racist clichés,
but also,
be white.

I propose that
one of life's hardest challenges
is discovering your core, whether you become a 
"hers" or a "his",
what your dream job is; life isn't a pop quiz,
there's not a tick or a grade for who you grow into.
But it would seem there is a cross,
attached to the back with a screw
of those whose older relatives travelled across
seas, whose parents have an accent
and appear to be at a loss
when they try to speak English
but they struggle and mess up
and apparently that's a reason to toss
people out of the social circles
that schools, colleges, work places
are founded upon.

Everyone has their own path to follow.
I mind my own business,
I walk, I wander, I wallow
down my own path
and yet I still get thrown off track
because of other people's "wise-ness",
their belief that I am inferior
because I eat with a chopstick in the cafeteria.

Copyright © Ryan Zhao | Year Posted 2019