To Fit The Part

 

Japanese square watermelons glisten in edges

a perfectly rounded cube, never sharp enough to draw blood

but shaved into beauty, enough corners to stay in place.

 

I wonder what came first, did an abnormal watermelon

happen to grow into a square that happened to be the shape of its cage

     or did the cage halt the fruit’s breath

     just early enough to fill

 

\\

 

I am quiet at first glance, five foot two, a fan of sweet earl grey tea,

a thin girl who likes to cook, Asian, a writer, not necessarily

     in that order, but then again, who decides this order?

 

Did I grow into a stereotype because that was all that was expected

of me in the country that once deemed me

unassimilable, then exceptional

 

A dirty carrier of the kung flu, spit on and cursed at then scrubbed clean

of color on a Washington performance report

 

     in the same breath

     in a matter of weeks

 

When I am white wiped of color, am I catered enough for you?

 

Does my neutralness signal lack of trauma

and does that sit well with you?

 

Will washing me colorless ease the white guilt that you so despise?

 

Or did I grow up with autonomy,

rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”,

to be as Asian as whoever I want to be?

 

     Hanbok trailing in watercolor silk and silver threads

     Midnight squid ink yielding thick Korean calligraphy

     Bullet-paced bargaining at traditional Sijangs

     Red hot rice cakes coated in Gochujang on winter nights

 

I look back at Seoul with my almond eyes

when it calls out to me, hands outstretched,

and know that I fit yet another mold here,

 

one that I am learning to describe. Forgive me, the privilege

of fitting in makes it hard to see what exactly you fit into.

 

and because of the way both halves of my life

have carved cages that seem to meld into my body

 

I may fit the part, but only by my will

     is what I repeat to set myself free.

 

Elina is a highschool junior from Seoul, South Korea. She attends Phillips Academy and is a graduate of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. She is the executive poetry editor for The Qualia Review and loves to draw in her free time.

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