Self-Portrait

Two brown eyes, black hair
Asian
A unique sensation:
using a foreign tongue
in this Chinese mouth.
In fact my palate
is rather
South-East Asian.
Not surprising then
that I have Tropical Feet:
grown too big from going
barefoot too much
in Singapore.
For eleven years.
So I am quite distinctly
un-banana.
Never lived in
America.
(Not yet, anyway.)
I have tough yellow skin
but my insides are mushy
with durians
(they stink
but they taste so good)
and English literature
(some of which
is almost good enough
to eat
Mmm... sonnets)
But I think I am most fond of
green tea
The expensive Chinese kind.
So while my tongue is English
my feet Singaporean
and my insides a mish-mash
of both cultures
(with a little Japanese thrown in)
I appear to appreciate
the finer points of
ancient China.
And so when I visit
the Land of the Smokers,
Communists
and Pirates (of the software-and-DVD sort) :
my tongue brings me status
my feet exorcise me
(I am no longer a Fake Foreign Devil)
and I can safely enjoy
my Chinese tea
(again I stress - the expensive sort) .
But some people see
in Yellow-and-White
So my insides
are always confused
because they are
neither Yellow
nor White.
They're kind of brown
(from all the sun)
but maybe that color
doesn't exist.
I don't use chopsticks
quite as well as I would
if I were yellow inside.
I speak Chinese
a bit too well as I would
if I were white inside.

I think I like
being brown.

by Yiling Ding

Comments (1)

I loved this poem and at the same time learned a few things about your culture. Thanks so much for a delightful poem and keep writing! Marilyn