© 2016 by Kate Bartel. Created with Wix.com

An Ode to Yellow

 

it’s a Friday night,

and we are drunk dancing on Bostonian buzz

when some beacon street bar man comes over, says

hey, what are you you know, like race

Thai, is that Asian that’s so exotic i was

gonna guess half black you don’t look

Asian at all your eyes aren’t small and

you’re so tall for an asian i mean i guess

the color of your skin and you are pretty

thin Taiwanese must be some crazy kind of

Asian

 

i can’t help but feel an entire continent sigh

 

i also can’t help but notice that this guy

so surprised by my heritage

dons his own oriental merit on his forearm.

i want to tell him that the pair

of chinese characters he wears

on his skin are not only illegible,

they have no origin.

at best, they mean “sky love”

 

yet in his drunken oblivion,

cocky cotillion,

elbows propped on the mahogany 

in the beacon street barlight

he still makes me feel the shame

of being Asian,

the envy of white skin and light eyes,

like my heritage is something i should hide

 

my full name is Katytarika

which is supposed to mean i am on a path to big things

in Thailand, the name you give your daughter is a prayer

for everything she will grow up to be.

in second grade, i chose to go by “Kate”

it has no meaning.

 

i couldn’t tell you when i first felt self-hate.

maybe it was the first “how can you be so bad at math kate?” 

or the time we watched a Korean film in class and I was jokingly told to translate—

this goes to show how 98% of my high school was white racist and cruel but

those jokes shouldn’t have resonated.

yet they did.

and the subconscious self hate elevated

and it continues to be celebrated

"Asian jokes" are being told like they’ll never get old,

and the thing is—they probably won’t,

because this hate is innate, right?

the whole idea of dominant traits and Asians,

being smaller in size makes them easier to marginalize right?

makes Asian women the easiest to objectify,

erect fantasies and broken English housewife is all we can be right?

why do i constantly find myself leaning towards white,

as though to be Asian is to see my own spite