MARCH 2017
“Yellow Rose” for Rooted Love 
In collaboration with my friend and artistic daydream Kyoko Takenaka, I performed a spoken word piece at Human Resources LA for Rooted Love, a multidisciplinary evening full of visual and performance art, music and healing.

my grandmother’s favorite flower is a yellow rose
she says red roses are too obvious,
that they are too flushed with emotion
and they die too quickly

sometimes I wonder if she is remembering herself as a rose
about how she left Taiwan and everything she had known
when she was 17 and married the only man she has
ever been with for nearly 6 decades

she tells me the day I graduate college that she just thinks
of my grandfather as a friend
that she takes care of him, not because she wants to but because she has to
not because she loves to but because she knows that routine best
in ways only silent caretakers know how to

sometimes I wonder if she is seeing film stills from her life
in those yellow rose petals
if she counts them as they fall
and tries not to
call it passing time

these days I’ve been thinking about telling my grandma
that I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with a man
and I have this sinking feeling that she would say “me neither”

when my grandma came to this country
with a new husband
and the promise of a better life
I wonder if she knew she was signing all of her dreams away

that she would come to know husband
and full time job as synonymous
if she knew that caring for others
would become her dominant personality trait
if she knew she would never be with anyone else
all her life

I have not yet come out to my grandmother
because sometimes I think we are both still trapped
in a closet somewhere
somewhere neither of us feel free enough to love
so I wonder if my out-ness around others
is my way of telling a story my grandmother couldn’t

an identity I wear for both of us
so that I might love more freely than she did
I wonder if being out is not about visibility
but about resistance
about a hurt so deep it must be externalized
must be laid bare in the sun so that light more pour into these holes
make our bodies warm again
I wonder if I am so free to be me
because my family history is a museum of closed doors,
is generations of silence and shadows
am I the result of decades of love held back by circumstance
or the aberration at the end of the story

you see my grandmother and I were born on the same day,
fifty four years apart
and in that time,
she saw Okinawa and airplanes,
left a motherland for the states
married a man drunk on foreign promises
and buried roots into quiet suburbia
in a little town I would come to call my home

in that time she had a daughter
who would have a daughter who is me
who carries more than just a bloodline or a skin tone
but a heartbeat and a story about losing touch with a past self too
my Abu and I can be polar opposites at times,
so we swap politics for porridge,
trade social issues for suan cai
and negate difference with nian gao

I cannot speak the language my grandma is most comfortable speaking
so food is our dialect, when we cannot connect the dots
in our own internal constellations

but I’m not sure what language to come out to my grandmother to
because each time I try
it just sounds a lot like silence
you see my grandmother doesn’t live very close to here
so whenever I go home
with a big bouquet of her favorite yellow roses
she asks me, jing jing, do you have a boyfriend yet?

and in all of my self-construction away from home
I forget I was somebody’s baby girl for much
longer than I was an out queer woman
I forget that the personal is political
but first it is personal
it is so deeply my story to tell that I forget not everyone knows the words
so I stumble a bit on my own explanation,
trip up on identity politics like my body is a provisional ballot
I thought I didn’t have to submit this time

so a lot of our time spent talking is about her life,
Taiwan, if she misses speaking in Japanese, if she misses herself,
and how she makes her food

I don’t want to disturb these quiet visiting hours
they are so few and far between
I am afraid that the day I tell her will be the last day she spends
with me just loving that her only granddaughter is there at all
I am afraid of changing one of the only relationships in my life that has ever been completely unbroken
completely at peace in my heart

sometimes being honest with yourself doesn’t mean
being out to everyone you know
sometimes being honest with yourself
means knowing your heart is not in a closet
it is in your chest
right where it has always been
the warm center of me that lights up
when I see my grandmother smile when I walk through the door,
eyes all “it’s been too long” and tiny limbs shuffling me
towards a table full of food that says
welcome home, stay as long as you like

there is no hiding here
only holding on
to the farthest corners of my childhood heart and a
grandmother who has never given me anything
but love and origin stories
with a home cooked meal

I don’t know when we started policing visibility
like we’re always playing the “out” Olympics
but I’m bowing out again this year
on account of the fact that I’m busy

I’m going to spend the time I’ve got drinking crushed watermelon
and looking through gelatin film prints of Abu in Santa Monica
and listen to her stories about the sibling she had to leave behind
and a life in Hawaii she still sometimes daydreams about

I am honest with myself
even if my grandma is still waiting for a boy’s name to
fall from my lips like a yellow rose petal and right into her approval
because I know she is still loving the real me
I guess that is something I got from her too