A certain way

I look a certain way
but I don’t always feel that way
I like to wear men’s clothes
I have a strong voice
I walk slow, my feet are sturdy
My hair is short
though it’s been shorter before

But
I write poems; I draw
I appreciate nature; my favorite color is green for a reason
I like the sun
I love music
I’m sensitive
I feel a lot of things
Everyday
I’m inspired by the ordinary
I look up to the extraordinary
I take care of people
But I need to be held
from time to time, I do

But people forget that
because I look the way I do
I need love.
just like the woman,
who looks like a woman,
standing next to me

Wondering

Wondering, endless pondering
wondering if you’re ok
is someone there for you
is someone holding you
if not- is someone taking care of your heart
i saw it in your eyes
your gaze, so deep
like a galaxy
decorated with stars, planets, robust orbits
i saw pain in your eyes
i saw invisible tears
i felt your earth shaking
i felt your sky splitting
you can say something different to me
but i can still feel your spirit
trying to survive
fighting, struggling
it’s not about me
but i feel helpless
all i can do
is to wonder, ponder
wonder if you’re ok
flash backs of your gaze
so deep, brooding
speaking to me
wordlessly
yet descriptive enough
for me to know I needed to comfort you
reassure you
i am here
for you
just let me know

Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day in the US. It’s funny because I was born on August 8th, Father’s Day in Taiwan. Growing up I always knew that when it was Father’s Day, it was my birthday. When it was my birthday, it was Father’s Day. My family always prioritized men in the household. Needless to say, my birthdays always got brushed aside to celebrate Grandpa or Dad. In recent years, since my aunt, Annie, moved in with us, it’s been better. She would get a cake, ask me what flavor I like, and pre-order. She would celebrate me, when no one else did.

Fatherhood, manhood, husband, boyfriend, brother, men. It’s a strange topic. A daunting idea. Masculinity is a tricky game. At its best, it can be loving. At its worst, hurtful.

I knew my grandparents fought. I always knew. But it didn’t occur to me that it was wrong, until I was in middle school when I started to have an idea of what is right and wrong. I hated the way my grandpa treated me grandma, and the way my grandma treated my mother. It was a constant power trip. My family is complicated. My grandpa hit my grandma. My grandma is always angry. My mom bears the brunt of broken relationships. My dad cheated on my mom. My uncle cheated on his wife and held the kids hostage. The kids eventually “escaped”, “rescued” as if they starred in a movie. My other uncle hit my other aunt. My great-aunt is mentally retarded, so is my other uncle and my other aunt. They were the targets of constant bullying, from family members who were hurt by others in the household. A top-down trickling effect. A thirst for power and control run in the veins of these people.

In middle school I developed consciousness. An awareness of what is right, wrong, or gray. I started rebelling. Protesting a broken family structure, if there was any to begin with. I hated Father’s Day. Why would I celebrate individuals who hurt others. My thoughts were irrelevant, though. Whenever I asked I was berated. Whenever I talked I was shut down. I learned quickly how to be silent. This pattern still effects me. When I need to speak up I don’t.

One day, my dad came home in a bad mood. He asked me to do something, and I objected. It came out of nowhere, this fire inside of me. I said no. I began to walk past him. Then he attacked me. We fought. My dad may be short, but he was a good size with probably over a hundred fifty pounds more than my middle school body. He beat me up, all the while I struggled. That flame flickered, and never died when I was pinned down. I punched and I kicked. He punched and he kicked. I cried for help and my mom and aunt just stood there. I knew what I had to do. I needed to win this fight. We were on the ground, rolled out the door, and fought in the front yard. I couldn’t hear anything but my own heart beating. Pumping hard, pumping fast. My instincts told me not to be afraid while no one came to help. At some point I kicked him hard with my bloody feet which threw him off. Within that short amount of time, I escaped from under him. I was lightning-quick, which I inherited from dad. I started to run, and he chased. I outran him. I was proud.

I stayed out in the rice fields for a long time.

It was just a couple years before that fight at home. I was a swimmer, and I was good. I had a coach. One day, he came in a bad mood. Our training was over, but I stayed behind to play in water. He told me to do something. I said no. A slight disagreement led to an argument. He was kneeling by the pool when he grabbed my head and pushed me under water. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I struggled to come up for air but he was just too strong. There was pain all over my body. Still under water, everything was blue. And blurry. Bubbles were everywhere, created by my flailing and hopeless arms. The sun shimmered and glittered in the water. It was a nice day out. Not too hot, not too cold. The water was the perfect temperature. My lungs hurt, water was coming in.

At some point he grabbed my hair and pulled me up. “What did you say?” I coughed and gasped desperately for air. The fire in me, my determination to stand up for myself led to a seemingly stupid response: “I said no!”. I was submerged again. After four times of “punishment” and me telling him “no”, his grip loosened. I snatched my head away from him and dove under water. I reached the other side of the pool, and ran out.

My mom came to pick me up. I was crying. She asked me what’s wrong. My coach ran up to us and said “She had a rough day.” I had nothing to say. I didn’t know what to say. I cried all the way home, silently. I can’t remember what happened after that. I never told her.

I never found respect for most men I encountered in life. Very few proved to be worthy. But those who did, were saving. I met the most gentle, kind, and loving man in high school. My basketball coach. He inspired and motivated me. I loved him like a father. It was healing. But that relationship was cut short when I came out of the closet and left for the US. His religion and my determination to become who I am had to go separate ways.

So on this day, I am grateful. For that flame that flickers and never goes out. For Father’s Day, which reminds me of my own birthday. My birthday: a celebration for life, strength, and tenacity. Today I think about those who are making it, and those who are not. People who are good, and people who harm. I wanted to write this because I want to forgive and move on, particularly on this Father’s Day.

Alternative

i am not mainstream
i can be traditional
but break customs all the time
my familys not proud of me
i dont know what they were expecting
someone to fulfill their unmet dreams
someone to carry their weight on strong shoulders
i dont disappoint
yet im unable to become that butterfly
they were hoping to find in me
because i made up my mind a while ago
i am not mainstream
i can be traditional
but break customs all the time
i dont do what i want
i dont just do what i please
but i started with knowing myself
and went from there
traditions are traditions
i never lost my roots
but sometimes they are not enough
butterflies are pretty
but i want to be more than that
i dont know where im going from here
but i know to trust my gut
when it tells me to turn left
i wont pick the path right
because everything is relative
what is right to them
what is wrong to them
what is fulfilling
what is true
what is up, what is down.
perspectives and worldviews…
some people dont know they are relative.

Right

You’re like sand on my beach
Water for this fish
You came and showed me
how feeling alive could mean
You told me you’re grateful
you told me it’s true
Never have I heard that
from anyone else before
you
Like sun on a cloudless day
Like green leaves on a tree
you breathe life into my living
showed me how to expand
spiritually, mentally
how to improve
physically, emotionally
you’re dedicated
clear goals in mind
motivating, inspiring
life becomes bigger
when I’m with you
when you show me
what you want to go after
run fast, hard
and get there on time
I don’t want to be a copycat
but I don’t know how to replace
grateful with another word
I’m glad you’re in my life
I don’t want it to be different
the way it is, it’s just right