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”,
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.