The Ballad of a Halfie

Today I am Asian: small eyes, dark hair
In an hour, I am white: strong hooked nose, pale skin
When I speak a foreign language you don’t know, you gape.
But when I wear green on St. Pat’s Day, you chuckle,
“Irish? You’re not Irish.”

You say I must speak Spanish–I look Spanish.
Whatever that means.
Or, no, I really don’t know Mandarin? Cantonese?
What kind of a Chinese-American am I?
Well, that’s easy–I’m not.
Surely I understand Yiddish?
Only as much as most New Yorkers do, ma’am.
But Russian? You don’t speak Russian?
Nyet. I am not Russian.

I am a mirror
Of whatever mesh of cultures and features you want to see.
I can drink Guinness with aplomb and sing “Carrickfergus” ’til you weep.
I can make mochi and drink sake and belt-sing “Kawa No Narage.”
So which am I? Irish-American? Irish from four generations ago?
Or Japanese? No, not really Japanese though–

And I say, “I am both. At the same time.”
And your mind explodes. As if I should choose my father over my mother.
As if I should choose my grandmother’s memories of the atom bomb
Over my family’s stories of potato famines and Atlantic crossings.
 I am not an Asian with a white father and I am not a white girl
With an Asian mother.

One drop does not wholly make me either.
And I am fully half of both sides.
So see what you want to see.
Chuckle and gape and be confused.
Because I am the future–
The future that’s already here, under your eyes.
A mesh of race and culture and language
The true melting pot.
A whole halfie.

10 thoughts on “The Ballad of a Halfie

  1. ^_^ I really like this, Sunflower! I also wholly agree! Like a thousand times. I feel like you've read my mind! You know, I actually upset a half-Korean friend one time because I could tell she was mixed. I think it's awesome, but that was strange. Sometimes people ask me if I'm half Middle Eastern, namely Pakistani. I'm not, and I don't see it at all, but I think it's funny. People really want to put interesting labels on you sometimes!


  2. Aw, thank you! Here's the thing: when you get asked constantly what you are, it gets a lil grating after a while. Basically, people just assume that you are what they are. I can't tell you how many times I've been told that I'm Russian. Yeah, no.


  3. I think you might get confused with Russian simply because Russia is right next to China and they must surely mix and a large population might look like you–although your mother is Japanese.What a lovely and true poem. Most people nowadays are mixed! And it's a beautiful thing. My personal favorite is Black with Whites…idk why haha. The people created are stunning. Anyway, people have mistaken me for Southeast Asian or East Indian and I'm just Latina (okay…although we all know Latin America is the BIGGEST melting pot in the world). And then comes the word \”exotic\” because they \”can't really tell what [I] am.\”You have to own your background proudly.


  4. I watched a documentary once–one with Ewan McGregor on a motorcycle in central Europe and Asia–and he went through Kazahkstan. Seeing the people, I totally understood why people at my high school (who were majority Russian) thought I was from somewhere around there. Seriously–Latinos are everything. Caribbean people are everything.


  5. A very thoughtful expression! My whole life other \”Americans\” questioned where I belong, almost as if wanting to push me into some form of solid figure of those things they are familiar with and such. \”Which one of us ARE you?\”I am half Japanese and half white immigrant (I don't know from where my father originated, just that he was pretty white). Being mixed, I look like a lot of what you don't see commonly, but that doesn't mean I don't commonly have the same feelings as you and the same feeling of belonging here in America as all of you.These are many things I've experienced as well. I know all too well from where your prose comes. Awesome!


  6. Great! I loved this! It's weird to be questioned all the time, but I think it's really cool. I have a few halfsie friends and I'm so jealous because 1) you guys are always so gorgeous, and 2) you guys are always so cultured. I'm always questioned myself because I don't look like I'm Vietnamese. I get latino and phillipino very often. I just shrugg it off. Like Krystal said, labels are not important :] Again, well done! Very thoughtfully written!


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