Why don’t you borrow my bifocals?

written by Erika Ehren (岡山県)

I wish that you could understand
the stigma of
that coats my body
with indeterminate race
everyone’s confused by it
What is she?
Why is she like that?
She just…
goes around like that?

I wish that you could see
the confused looks
in trains
office introductions
hi-nice-to-meet-you handshakes
every aspect of my life
as I explain
over and over
and over
and over
my race
is different from
your expectations

I wish that when you looked at me
you wouldn’t stop and wonder about
my race
you would stop and wonder about
my life

I wish that once
just once
when you find the courage
to approach me
that instead of asking
where I’m from
as if it will give you insight into
who I am
I wish that you would ask me
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
Where is the most memorable place you’ve been?
What have you learned today?
Have you ever seen the sunrise?

I wish we could have
a conversation of substance
rather than subsisting
on banalities
emotionless unrealities
of scripted words
that in the end
add up to very little

I wish we wouldn’t
go ‘round and ‘round
in circles of
‘Where are you from?’
‘But where are you from?’
constantly chasing inconsequential answers
to inconsequential questions

I wish I wouldn’t have to
confine myself
by defining myself
by my nationality
because the only
you use to explain
how I look is
your preconceived notion of
how I must
act, look, be
based on where I’m from

I wish that my
kind of, sort of
epicanthic eye
wouldn’t always
your eye

and sometimes I wish
I knew only one life or
the other
because when I’m
assumed to be a member of that
superbly selective Asian Nation

I know what it’s like
to be a part of the crowd
to have belonging
in a society that thrives
on fitting in

But I also know the other
the looked askance at
born to stand out
born to be different
forever foreigner
where I’m never
a part of
but always

Wait. Stop.
Just give me a second
to clean the
disappointment smudges
from my bifocals.

Let’s start fresh.
Let’s start anew.

Because I still wish
I still hope
that I can be
one small scrap
of impetus
to change the way
you view
me and you
and us
so now
just for the minute it takes
for my words to seep into your mind
I wish you would truly
absorb them
let them dye you
instead of wringing them out

I wish you would
let my words
into your everyday interactions
so that one by one by one
my wishes will
saturate us
until one day
I will have no
for wishes ◆

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