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American Diorama by Naomi Ling

American Diorama | Naomi Ling

              after Ocean Vuong

              “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I
              acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own
              worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” 
              Theodore Roosevelt

Let this be a story of light. Tonight the TV 
              speaks little tragedies into 
existence, throws 
                            home across faceless soil. 
I want 
              nothing more than 
a home / body / girl 
                            to call my own. We can 
be our own flag 
              and anthem: Flesh is not a prayer, 
but let me sing it into creation. 
              Myth or memory, 
                            you decide. 
              
If myth, say anthem of immigrants. I hear 
American Dream and believe 
              bullets-becoming-a-war-cry, 
              bullets-biting-breasts, 
              mountains-leaning-into 
              -a-mother, into anything, everything beautiful. 
The news holds my head 
              against a bright 
                            blue square—propaganda. 
              Good citizen. 
The sky blanches open 
                            over us. So proud & 
              worshipping. 
              
              Back in the day we 
wanted to make clouds. Packed powder 
like a promise and 
              cocked it towards the
sky. It fell like rain. Killed like
              history. The air hewed 
into a thousand choked breaths— 
who would believe us? 
                            They say America was born 
              from a womb. 
There are far too many 
              casualties 
                            for rebirth. 
              
Let us dream our history into 
              hope. My mother tells me of men 
measuring the land with their 
teeth, mistaking the earth for 
bread. Hunger will make every man
              into resilience. Or at least, 
              into everything 
                            we weren’t meant to be. 
              
I say speak and mean anything our tongues
touch. Language: another form of life. To
                            which we love and are 
loved. What I say is 你好 / 안녕하세요 /
                            ہیلو .What I say is 
we are more than our hands. Birds: our wings
                            plucked or unfolded; 
              our wrists 
                            some small act of creation. 
              
America unfurls from patriot to pixels—
you were not born 
              from a womb, 
a dynasty, 
                            a lineage. 
Every man and woman leveled 
like dust. Yet we are not 
              finished. This can be a chapter 
an elegy 
              or sacrifice. We of belonging. 
We of cities that mute themselves
              too late. 
                            What I’m saying is 
not every story 
                            has a storyteller. We live 
              only for our bodies 
not imaginations. 
              
On the news, the ground 
                            proclaims itself a patriot. 
I’m ready 
              to call it home / anything. 
              /

 

About the Author:

Naomi Ling is a student writer on the East Coast, USA. Her poetry most often grapples with growing pains and identity. In her free time, she enjoys eating as many dumplings as she can.