in secondgrade, you helped me craft a diorama of our community for a school project. you used a half melon for winstonsalems iconic wachovia building and dark shanzha for concrete highways. life is a race to the sky; your starting point is higher than your cousins in china, you lectured from aerial view as your knarred hands caressed rural north carolina like a general presiding over his hungry army. you molded lopsided twostory homes from mantou and for pine trees—well, imagination is the father of creation.

the teachers feedback:

did not read directions.  

after, you stuck with the less threatening subjects—

calculus and geometry.

have i told you about the cruise party my company threw on a twodecker? we motored down the hudson with an open bar and cupcake lasagnas stacked into threetier castles. for an evening, i visited lego mans lavish lifestyle, mounting empty wine glasses on marble bar counter for the days i havent called you. your silence, my vernacular, stumbling from paycheck to paycheck, flirting with boys who never knew envy.

chinese tourists rode on hot air balloons,

capturing selfies with

miniature americans sailing like clouds

on the river.

at your first office party did your eyes gloss over every building block five times until you could rebuild your own capitalist world in your sleep? did you shift by the bar like an interloper? and when your boss offered you a quiche, did you push it away because you didnt know its price?

grinning chinaman

mummified curio glued

to steel. zhongguoren.

Shuyu Cao was born in Luoyang, China but spent most of her childhood in Chapel Hill, NC. Loud and proud Chinese American, she refuses to balance the hyphenated identity; rather, she embraces both equally and simultaneously. These days, you’ll find her working on her poetry project and paving new ground for social justice.