The Asia Issue: Poetry Roundup

Each issue we feature pieces by Asian womxn around the world. Here are this issue’s poems!

“Hey, can I just call you D? Divita is too hard to pronounce.” by Divita Pandita

प्रिय (Dear) every uneducated Tom, Dick, and Harry   |


Had I been crafted
a little more perfect
you all would have stood witness to goddess
शक्ति (Shakthi) herself
delivering you to the afterlife and back
with just one smile   |

 

Every utterance of my name
holds blessings of Hindu ancients
that flow out of each sacred syllable
to enlighten some consciousness within you;
A true स्त्री (woman) commands your presence   |

 

Mispronouncing my name
is the very sin that leads you in your
ignorance and erasure of
my being
my people
my ताक़त (strength)   |

 

Do you know what is hard, Tom?
Listening to my parents
lament over loved ones
lost during terrorist attacks
spearheaded by the very Anglo-saxon culture
my family is forced to assimilate to   |

 

Do you know what is hard, Harry?
Being part of a population
branded as beastly
because of media broadcasting bullshit where
the brown narrative
is always labeled as backwards   |

 

Do you know what is hard, Dick?
Watching my people
being recounted as uncultured savages
“second rate persons who needed colonization to survive”
in my high school history class
when the real history is that:
Indians were the first warriors, emperors, scholars, artists in the entire world
even prior to some irrelevant white man’s manifest destiny   |

 

Do you know what’s not hard, Tom, Dick, and Harry?
Pronouncing my accented name   |

 

My identity is absolute and forever
and you, you uncultured *भेनचोद
with your stubborn tongues/minds that
try their hardest in gentrifying my name and being,
even you,

 

will never be capable of extinguishing my दिविता (divine light)   |

 

*भेनचोद (this is a bad word in Hindi so I’m not going to translate it… fill it in with your own bad word if you would like to!)

by Nimra Naseem



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Let Asia Sleep by @kai.laniii 

Let Asia sleep
Let her close her eyes and count her sheep
Count the days where
She felt most weak
And watch her shake the world

 

Let Asia breathe
Let her take in air and plant her seeds
Plant in fields where
She stands to see
The red sun light her world

 

Let Asia eat
Let her swallow her success and feast
Yes, succeed where
She will be free
To go and seize the world

 

For when she wakes
Oh, mercy when the world quakes

 

You will have never dreamed
You kept her silent while your flags streamed

“Acrid Brutish Grace,” by Sophia Bahadoor

“Acrid Brutish Grace,” a play on the acronym ABG. It discusses typical Asian personality stereotypes as well as the expectations that are brought upon us by our families.

A sunday night.

Couch-cushioned chats
And uncomfortable wishes.

 

“Make something of yourself,
Something we could finally be
proud of.”

 

A monday night.

acrylic polish on sweat
lined love and sucralose lust.
light yourself on fire,
strip your glossed eyes onto the dance floor.
rock your rugged corpse to the music,
perfect and used and juiced to a pulp.

 

Would they be proud of you,
with your hands in his hair?

A tuesday night.

Bloody retinas and
tapping to the tune of insanity.
noses stuck in textbook fairytales,
midnight lullabies sung by
melancholic manic panic,
Trixie pink and bubblegum
anxiety disorder.
Eraser bumps stained red,
lips cold and thirsty.

 

Would they be proud of you,
With your “
B”roken facade?

 

A Wednesday night.

Heads set to the
Pixelated characters
that shut out reality.
Dreary faces controlled
by the glee
Of obsession.
Idolizing over idols
Who don’t exist.

 

Would they be proud of you,
Glued to your screens?

 

A thursday night.

fingers tracing over
lace-stripped bodices
and silk paint brushes.
smiles of graphite,
porcelain and plush paint.

 

Would they be proud of you,
Wasted on artistic abilities?

 

A friday night.

they rocked your wretched limbs,
wept as your fragile frame
bent to fit
their hollow cores.
guilty slews turned
to anger and rage.

 

Would they be proud of you,
Skinned to a crisp?

 

A saturday night.

locked doors,
Messy mascara,
sippy cups.
Slippy behaviour
turned into
Serenity.

 

When I describe myself as an “ABG”,
It is not because I am your picture-perfect dream girl,
dreamboat daughter o’ mine.

 

It will be because of the taste I leave on your tongue when
I disappoint you for the seventh time this week, failing
To be the person you pictured me to be.

 

It will be because of the cruelty of my defiance, my
Resilience to repeat the histories of my ancestors,
Coming undone.

 

It will be because of the light that grows within
Myself, learning that I never needed to fit
The character you drew up for me.

 

A sunday morning.

burnt toast,
acidic orange juice
and mellowed out
Memories of home.

 

Would you be proud of yourself,
Becoming the person you were meant to be?

“Translation Fallacy” by Rukhsar Ali (she/her)

It is not that I cannot speak
It is that the colonizer’s lexicon has no words for my story
my plot is inherently invalid
and translations lose the colour of my tale
like water splashed onto a painting
bodies dance on the canvas
submerge and slip off the surface
outlines withstand the onslaught enough
to recognize that beings were here
but the vibrancy dulls and skillful strokes become splotches
our enemy is clever
he steals our souls but graciously leaves
the remnant of a body behind to say
Look. You’re Still Here.
so no complaints are valid
and my existence is a blessing
but years of trauma handed down like heirlooms
are clothed in ignorant dressing
and paraded like the painting of an abstract idea
displayed in a museum, a showcase of the far gone past
opened up for interpretation
after the true meaning is doused with revisionist history
Because A Picture Speaks A Thousand Words

“Labor Day for Viet Americans” by Christine Yen Tran

We have forgotten,
Distracted by the fruits of our labor.
Its sweetness and
plentifulness and
privilege
Too distractingly delicious 
to honor their work.

On Labor Day,
the nail salons are still open. 
The aunties, hunched over
other people’s feet, breathe
through their masks,
the stinging smell of
acetone and nail polish
pierces through
while their necks and backs
ache for that extra few dollars of tip.

On Labor Day, no bánh mì shops
remain closed. They can’t
afford to turn their back on profit.
I remember my father telling me
about his mornings at 3am,
delivering fresh baguettes
for only three dollars a day
back in the early 90s
as a new immigrant in the States.

I recall giant trash bags
filled with fake acrylic nails
and how my aunt convinced
my grandmother, cousins, and I
to pre-package 10 pieces into
tiny ziploc bags, that would make us
ten cents per bag. 
A penny for a nail.
My grandmother stayed up late
into the night to make the extra cash.

Holidays like Labor Day 
are best for businesses.
When our restaurant was open,
my mother still woke up early 
to shop for fresh ingredients.
My grandfather still managed
the shop. I still set all the 
tables with placemats,
chopsticks, and cutlery,
at eleven years old.
The smell of cá nướng
Still lingers and haunts my memory.

Vietnamese people labor every day.
Their instincts for survival
keep them from having weekends,
days off, or vacations.
They work hard each day
to share beers and food together.
Opportunity and hard work
are in abundance in America.

When she was a young, single mother,
my mom took all the odd jobs:
An admin at the sheriff’s department,
A seamstress by night,
A dental technician by day.
I never heard her complain
about being tired. I’ve never 
seen her cry or sweat.
She does the work.

But I do see her worry
about insurance or lack 
of a 401k, or a retirement plan.
No one in our family has
planned for the future or
thinks about inheritance.
This is the constant by-product of
surviving and survival, day by day.
They’ve worked so hard,
Yet it takes them twice as long
and twice as much effort
to build generational wealth.

I want to honor their labor
I recognize my own privilege
To have warm meals and a
roof over my head.
To have access to education.
To be able to have time to
think and plan for the future.
To appreciate and participate in the arts.
To question and to vote.
To act and begin building a better,
more inclusive, and beneficial
community for people who labor.

“Ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây.” – a Vietnamese proverb
When you eat the fruit, remember who planted the tree.

Christine Yen Tran-Phan is a digital marketing manager in the tech industry by day, passionate about telling the narrative of a company through its branding. Born and raised in Orange County, CA, she inherited the entrepreneurial spirit from her family, and has once co-owned a tropical fish store. She has also been on the copywriting team for the last three years of Forge54, a 54-hour marketing boot camp that focuses on rebranding for non-profit organizations. She loves the art of storytelling and narratives, rooted in listening to her great-grandma’s stories as a child. Her poem and art piece, “Was It Dark?” was exhibited in VAALA’s Generations: 40 Hues between Black and White in 2015. She’s interested in revealing stories and overarching themes of the human experience through the topic of food. More importantly, she’s passionate about revealing unique Vietnamese traditions that have been imbued in her from stories she’s been told since childhood and tying them with the American immigrant experience.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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