“Muscle Memory”

by Catt Phan


For as long as I can remember my family tells me that my destiny is written in my hands.

Random strangers tell me I should be a hand model – sell myself away to them, but my hands are priceless my father reads my palm lines as directions on how to better understand me.

My Ba Ngoai reads in between those lines to tell me about my past lives and how I should live my life now.

But for me, my hands are muscle memory. They remember every touch, every nuance, every event that the rest of me cannot.

My hands remember holding my aunt’s face and while I told her not to cry because I’ll be back tomorrow from America.

My mind does not understand that immigrating to a new country is not the same as walking down the street.

My heart will forget her until almost a decade later, but my hands still feel the wet sorrow on her face as my fingers try to wipe her tears.

My hands remember promises with my Ba Ngoai, how our pinkies connected as we swore in a secret code that only the two of us understood.

My ears hear the sound of her voice even thousands of miles away, but my mouth cannot translate the words my heart wants to say into Vietnamese.

My hands remember how soft and worn out my father’s fingers feel when he gives me small boxes of advice as apologetic gifts for being too much of a boy in a different country while I was growing into a woman.

My heart associates his face with disappointment, but my hands always pack into what he gave me when I travel to new destinations.

My hands are muscle memory and my greatest fear is that I will one day look at them as blanks.

That I will not be able to trace my mother’s face.

Not be able to point to my reflection when it stares back at me.

Not be able to feel the accomplishments I have gathered in this life.

My cousins work hunched back at nail salons all day to make the hands of privileged others beautiful.

I wonder how they do not lose their identity even when the acetone slowly singes away their fingerprints.

I wonder if it is because identity and memory transcend the physical parts of our body.

I wonder until my head spins, but my spine is still straightened.

My spine is steel straight with the answers to the questions I never knew to ask and my palms meet in prayer,

having faith that this time,

will be the last time my mind forgets again.


“American Alien”

by Jenna Bao

Instagram: @jennabao

I am an alien
My eyes, my skin color, my being
Jump out like a wilting wisteria in the midst of
A perfumed garden of pruned, perfect, and pretty pansies
I know I do not belong in this sea of porcelain

I grow like the thin, wispy fractures on a glass window
Little by little, then all at once
I learn that children are beautiful angels
Their words are silver bullets piercing through my pounding heart
Spreading misery and misfortune
Each stare and each remark pushes me off the ledge
Sending me down a black hole of self-loathing
We are taught to be honest as children
And I was the most honest of them all
Lying to myself about who I was and who I needed to be

Thousands of years of history enclosed in the Pandora’s Box of my mother tongue
Become as useless to me as gum wrappers on bustling streets
Generations of rich, vivid culture become daggers
Arming the clash of my internal struggle
Warm, steaming dumplings bathed in brothy, light soup drown me
Bright, soft cloth depicting images of old stories with silk stitchings
Suffocate me through the skin I no longer recognized
I despise that country because those around me despise it
A communist, conservative, cult of creatures
All so foreign to my adopted American attitude

The sun sleeps as I walk into the theater
I see them
People with my eyes, my skin color, my being
On the big screen and loved by all
This connection was the key
Saving me from my lifelong inner battle
I am a golden, glistening sandcastle washed away by the beating, gray waves
Yearning to be rebuilt
I learn to love this foreign country that owns me

I celebrate each holiday

I learn about the battles of my ancestors and the struggles of my kin
I pull my culture out like an old sweater
In the depths of a dark, musty closet
Wearing it proudly for all to see
This group of people like me are my brothers and sisters
Born in America but always connected to our mother country
Thousands of years of history that flow within me
Like the cold, crisp water in a quiet, clear creek
It is all mine
It is all me
I am an alien that belongs



by Sameen Hanan

Instagram: @sameenxhanan

Twitter: @sameenxhanan

These thoughts that haunt my life, never escaping
The memories I dread but never forget
Things I will never be able to say
Responsibilities holding me back from making a change
Trapped in this narrow mindset I fail to change
This oppressive world that has stopped my limits
Music and books are my only way to escape

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Interview with Deborah Kwon

Wed Jun 12 , 2019
“Muscle Memory” by Catt Phan   For as long as I can remember my family tells me that my destiny is written in my hands. […]

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