“American Hello Kitty”
by Taylor Fang
— AFter the painting “American Hello Kitty” by Roger Shimomura
How do the Chinese name their children—
by dropping pots and pans down the stairs,
said the white boy on the bus
home from third grade, and I wondered if this meant
he thought we were rich enough to break
all our cooking equipment just for a name—
the Chinese who invented
the oldest written language in the world.
And I wondered if this meant
I was supposed to laugh along, and not say that the pans
would make sounds like Ben and Brock and
Jane and Claire, and that my language
was not supposed to be a taunt called inability
to assimilate. Later, these syllables stretched
around my eyes, and still they were sounds
like pots and pans. Ching chong chang.
Egg roll, fried rice. Things I don’t understand
but try to mock. And maybe this is why
the American Hello Kitty became a mascot
of my own silence. I’d draw a caricature
on a frying pan, I thought, name it American wok
and throw it down the stairs. Ridiculous
how much I related to Hello Kitty,
demure enough to be a universal picture of
model minority. Pastel, soundless. And I wondered
if I could also become the stereotype, like the painter,
the symbol of absurdity. My face
burnished into hard metal, scorching
everything I come in contact with.
Taylor Fang is a Chinese-American student living in Utah. Her poetry appears in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Cargoes, Aerie International, and Rookie Magazine, among others, and has been recognized by the New York Times and Poetry Society of the United Kingdom.