Representation Matters

Photo by Olenka Kotyk on Unsplash

They’re blond, they’re pale and their problems all get solved, resolved. Laugh track in the back, everything’s fine and they hug it out. Everything ends on time. Everything fits in the 30 minute slot, once a week, prime time.

It’s not just a TV show, it’s not just about a functional extended family fun full house florescent glow, it’s a window. For an impressionable young and dumb kid, this window was a glimpse into what she thought was reality. Not fiction, but a depiction of actuality. An understanding of what was acceptable, desired and admired.

And then she compares herself and ultimately cries in despair. Because as she looks from one surface to another, a TV screen to a mirror, she notices, they don’t match. She’s not pale, she’s not blond. Eyes shaped almond, not big and round. Family far from functional, she concludes, White is right and I am wrong. 

As time passes and progresses, this kid’s growth is stunted, regresses. She’s taller in height, and her physical size expands, and yet she stands, stooped. Back bent, eyes down, arms curled in as she attempts to take up less space, a girl with no face. Lacking in self worth and self confidence, the overwhelming monolithic, prolific, ubiquitous monster of a beast of the media has pushed her to resist her own existence, because it’s loud and clear, there’s no space for her here. I don’t belong, I don’t fit, so let’s just make myself disappear. 


Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

It used to burn. Burn bright, emitting incandescent, iridescent light. All the colors of the rainbow, it flickered, it’s fickle, it was alive.

It was, anyways.

Sun up sun down, doors open doors close. I speak but there’s no sound. The walls close in, I push back. I keep pushing back. Push. Push. Push. The wall looms over, rigid, unyielding, monolithic. Its plaster thick, prolific, sadistic. It surrounds me. Bounds me. Tight. Crushes me, suffocates me and shuts out that evanescent light.

I can’t breathe.

So what? What is the point. Point the gun at me because modernity has crushed my soul, my spirit, my waning light. It is replaced by that harsh cold florescent light. A black mirror reflected refracted, cracked, distracted. Everyone is around, but they’re not physically here. They can’t hear. They can’t see.

I’m waiting.

Eyes shut tight, waiting for the inevitable end. The black deep dark abyss gapes wide with no ends. My spirit weakens as it teeters over the edge. She waits for someone to talk her off of that precarious ledge.

It’s not too late.

A familiar face. A twinkle in the eye. A friend. A HUG. Real, tight, surrounds me, bounds me, and I can’t breathe. But this is different. This is real. I feel. I almost don’t believe it. It’s surreal. Arms encircle, wrap and hold me tight. Chest to chest, there’s emanating radiating warmth that ignites. Resurrected! Yes! It’s in sight! Rejuvenated! Yes! Seeping light! Elevated! Yes! Above great heights!

Yes! My spirit glows once again.

Hey There Lonely Girl

By herself. All alone. Pink pants, stressed shirt. She’s stylish, self conscious. Lips colored with faint fig chapstick, eyeliner lines thin, makeup at a minimum. Red wires wrap her torso, she’s encased in music that’s turned down low. Below the Saturday streets, she waits for the train to take her where her eyes go. She looks up and through the tunnel into the great beyond. Great abyss, great darkness interrupted intermittent with flashing, florescent neon colored lights. Saturday night. Train’s faint light finally in sight. Doors open. Out and in out and in. Stop. And go Stop. And go. But the girl sits. By herself. All alone. Two seats to her one self. She doesn’t look down, she doesn’t look sad. She looks interesting. She looks like she has something to say. But she sits on the outskirts with the window seat beside her empty. There’s no one to talk to. So her mouth is closed as her body encloses that seat empty. She looks beyond it. Beyond her window reflection. Black tunnel, black backdrop, blackness reflected back on those burning bright eyes.

Someday They’ll Love Thi Nguyen

Oh Thi. Poor Thi. After a long day where a sweet toothy kid hiss and spits at you, after a fake tanned, long nail girl gives you a one star Yelp review, you come home to an empty home. Alone. Unnoticed, unappreciated, you swing back a glass to keep you inebriated. To drown out that little voice that says, “you’re not needed.” Which leads to the thought, “you’re not wanted,” to the inevitable, “you’re not loved.”

Maybe when you were young, you were dumb and you couldn’t see that Mom was barely scraping by. She didn’t have time. There wasn’t enough of her, spread too thin, you could never win.

But that’s ok. Let’s chase something that can be won! But ah, why life is such a delusion. That shiny city all glitz all glittery is an illusion. But it lured your stupid self into its provocative trap. Your mind rapt within it, your body wrapped in it, your soul warped from it. Thi, they don’t want you, they don’t need you. There’s somebody better, somebody brighter, a star. And it isn’t you.

Well fine! Because there’s this guy. And in his eyes, I AM the star. I’ve set the bar, I’m the one, the only! His arms surround me, holds me as I’m stationary and still, drinking up this moment in which I have forever wished and willed. But his eyes catch something better. Somebody better. Somebody blonder.

Oh Thi. Poor Thi. You’re blind. You’re lost. You’re confused. Why chase the ruse, when the risk is huge? But if my present, my now, is coming home to nothing, to no one, what else do I have to lose?

It’s complicated

Run away with me to the pink kisses and orange embraces, where the land ends to where the Pacific curves and bends endlessly. As Sun’s long arms cloaks me, wraps me, swaddles me into a lazy slumber, and my eyes droop in the shadows of palm trees. An easy sigh escapes my lips as I float away into you.

Oh LA! How can one resist you? Your beautiful bronze skin in constant glow, your spine like the horizon beckons me to you. And I follow your soft fingers along the sweet zephyr with eyes closed and quickened heart. I was young. I was dumb. And I fell so quick and deeply into you, where time stopped. And so did logic.

It takes me years before I break away from your charm. Your spell. Holy hell, I’ve only just woken up into obscurity. Curiously, seriously, I am lost.

You’re big, you’re cold. You’re a sprawling city, gross and gritty. You held me tight only to throw me far across the 405. And I believed your lies. You chewed me up and spat me out, pressing me down against your Skid Row pissed on pavements. So scarred. So scared. So acutely aware.

The shroud’s become transparent and the smog is finally lifted. Let’s be realistic, I’m just another statistic, to your sadistic collection. I opened myself to your constant rejection, when all I ever gave you was my devoted adoration. Like the waves tumbling over and over, pummeling rocks into sand, I suffer and subject myself to you, crumbling, breaking, broken.

Oh what a masochist I am! LA what have you done to me? I’ve lost all autonomy, I’ve succumb to your mindless insanity. Like the heavily sedated, obnoxious boobs and mutilated faces, I’ve carved, chopped and severed sensibility for a farce, slight possibility of an LA legacy. I don’t recognize myself anymore.

I’m NOT myself anymore. And THAT is what pulls me back into your good graces. Your consuming embraces. Your many faces. I’ve reinvented myself, keeping afloat, keeping relevant in your eyes, so that I don’t bore you. So that I won’t be forgotten by you. So that I may be special to you?

And then I step over the edge and see myself in your vast vastness. Your blank eyes and empty contemplation. Sun shines too bright above me, as I see my harsh reflection in the sea. And I finally see, that you cannot see. Pity. You and I, LA, we’re one and the same. We’re both desperate souls in an endless ocean of soulless, mindless, pointless atoms desperately clinging to an impossibility.

Birthday Blues

Happy birthday to me. You’re one year older, one year wiser. You could’ve died, but you didn’t. You a survivor.

Happy birthday to me. For that one day out of 365 days, you’re special. You matter. You’re validated. Celebrated.

Happy birthday to me. But there’s this dark cloud hanging above. And I just can’t rise above. Instead I fall into a black hole, out of my control.

Happy birthday to me. When Eve bit into that apple, she knew coldness. And that black holes hit soulless. Doubt creeps in. The truth lies within.

Happy birthday to me. You’re not special. You never were. Facebook lists how many more people have your same birthday. Today. Same day.

But so what? Mitigate that expectation of validation. Why do you need it? You don’t. You won’t. You’re not a small kid figuring out her motor skills awkwardly. You’re not a pimply teen working out the intricacies of puberty.

You’re an adult. That what is most important is not validation from anyone or anything. It’s the waking up in the morning, to smell, to feel, to laugh, to heal for another day, and then another day, and then another day. Soon, you’ve hit the year mark, where there’s always sun after the dark.

You’re 31. You made it this far. Sit down. Be humble.

Someday I’ll love Thi Nguyen

a poem inspired by Ocean Vuong’s, Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong

Thi, don’t be afraid. Just breathe in. Breathe out. Be still. Listen. It’s most calm at night between the deep hum of a low flying airplane and the steady soft snores of your next door neighbor. As the four walls of your tiny studio reverberates Time’s breath, you notice how transient life really is with every exhale. It’s not cold in 80 degree LA weather, but you wish to see your breath, as if it’s the only indicator of a life worth continuing. A 5 year old kid leans his soft hair and warm head against your hand as he struggles with personal space and sharing. An old couple walks ahead of you as fast as they can but they wobble. And you wonder where you fit. To fit in the crook of your father’s arm as a toddler on that discolored white carpeted couch or to kiss your mom good night on a cheek full of dark brown freckles from years of Sai Gon’s hot sun, you notice now that both parents have wrinkles abound as Time surrounds and suffocates all. With no discernment. Hands clasp praying for some reprieve. Not. More like clumsy hands trying to grab Time down for control. No. To hold on, to wait for you as you hope to make some kind of impact to Time. To beg. Yes. Maybe to impress, maybe to stand out, so that instead of Time suppressing you down, Thi, you rise and live on beyond it into legacy. And then you look into the mirror, and you see a ghost in the roots of your hair, as it turned white over night.

This is a story of a 29 year old woman.

This is a story of a 29 year old woman.

In a week she would turn the dreaded 30.

On Monday, the woman went to her waitressing job and got in an argument with her 24 year old manager.

On Tuesday, the woman went to an audition where the room was filled with people who looked younger, prettier and had more credits on their resume than her.

On Wednesday, her 25 year old booty call broke up with her.

On Thursday, the woman’s mom called her and asked when she was going to marry a rich man.

On Friday, she got 5 invites … 2 to a wedding, 1 bachelorette party, 1 baby shower and 1 housewarming.

On Saturday, the woman checked her bank account. She decided to stay in.

On Sunday, it was her birthday. The woman had a mental breakdown. She turned off her phone, buried herself in her bed and cried all day.

On Monday, she got over it.

The flower

No stimulation



She’s numb and passive

Short tempered, reactive

Empty eyes, stifled breaths

All she does is rest

from nothing.

A wilted flower she has become

Her hair droops, her body is curved

Standing in the dark with no one around

Not fulfilled, she stares at the ground.

And then a friend comes

And sees that lonely flower

with dried leaves and missing petals.

That friend approaches, but our protagonist cowers.

Eyes met, no words exchanged

No judgement, just simple impulse

The friend crosses over with outstretched arms

That wrap around her

surround her

and bound her.

And she inhales sharply

She didn’t know she wasn’t breathing.

Her eyes water as tears spring out

All she needed was just a hug she just found out.

She wakes up from this realization

Moves her stiff arms up

Grabs her friend and holds on tight

Life rife with strife, there’s light!

A light from the sun feeds the flower

A warm embrace showers

her with power

as she towers

and gains nourishment to cope

to have hope

to live

and to grow.

This is a story of a girl that had a name.

This is a story of a girl that had a name.

A weird, different name.

Many people mispronounced it.

When mispronounced, her name reminded people of an awkward body part.

And the kids laughed at the sound of it.

It wasn’t a classic name like “Jennifer”.

When it was pronounced correctly, it wasn’t any better. Called to mind was an inanimate letter or a bitter drink.

The girl hated her name.

And then her dad explained her name.

It means “poem” in old Vietnamese.

The girl had read a lot of poems.

She liked poems, especially from Shell Silverstein, Dr. Seuss and the occasional Tupac Shakur.

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

In a box with a fox on a plane in a train

A rose that grew from concrete.

The girl grew to like her weird, different name.