A Hundred Gourds 4:3 June 2015

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Chen-ou Liu - Canada

A Part, Yet Apart

"'The letter L is pronounced with a large flap of the tongue. In contrast, the best way to pronounce R is to move your tongue as little as possible when making the sound," my eager ESL tutor tells me from across the table. After several attempts at "alive and arrive," "flee and free" and "blight and bright," I recognize a helpless look on her face. She is twenty years younger than I with dyed blonde hair. Then, in a low voice, she says, "Sometimes, I'm jealous of you. You speak and act like you know who you are. Hovering between two worlds, I feel pressured to be loyal to the old one while living in the new, approved of on either side of my hyphenated identity: Chinese-Canadian."

she murmurs
I'm homesick at home
I respond
in halting English
the past is my home

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