Track: “Black Swan” by BTS
With Tamar’s jokes and my elders’
faces flash on tweet after tweet Rest In Peace,
I don’t want to be here.
I have grown numb to apologies
from strangers who only saw me
once and friends who I haven’t spoken to
after I left Folsom and Ashland and tried to be better.
The pain I had since I was six
and that it rested in my chest began to burst
through my rib cage, drilling holes in each
bone as every memory and unsure problem that
were gaslit crept back to me.
Even if my memory was foggy
I would never lie.
I would never let this hurt become a part of my bloodstream,
letting my self-hate be its own person if everything I recalled
were stories I saw on TV.
Nobody taught me this pain.
Okaa-san taught me to stand up for myself
but I only learned to blend in,
leaving my identity behind to
pitchforks and racial banter.
I hid from the crowd, afraid that they will look down on
my sensitivity whenever my Asianness gets put
into question, debating if I was worth saving.
When I lifted my head for the first time,
I almost broke my neck.
At this point, I don’t want anyone’s sympathy
or succumb to my own toxic thoughts.
I just want to be left alone.
Asela Lee Kemper holds a BFA in Creative Writing with a minor in Emerging Media & Digital Arts from Southern Oregon University. She holds many positions including co-editor at Chopsticks Alley Pinoy, poetry editor at Variety Pack, and poetry reader at Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Timberline Review, and Marías at Sampaguitas. She also has published works in SOU Student Press, Flawless Mag: The Border Issue, Silk Club: QUIET, Reclamation Mag, and the anthology No Tender Fences. Asela uses her passion for creative writing to open conversations on diversity and identity in literature. As an Asian American, she uses her platform to engage and uplift underrepresented Asian American artists. She currently resides in Oregon, USA with her family. Follow Asela on Twitter at @AselaLeeK and Instagram at @thesakuraink. *This poem was edited on 5/16/2023 as requested by the poet/author