By Any Other Name

– for J.K.
 
 
I like the sound of my name / in your American mouth / the way it ping pongs
off your tongue / its chopstick and porcelain clatter / how your lips fold around
/ my name’s rhino horn-edges / as high as a pagoda / or a horse, the one I ride
around on / as you pelt me with your chinks and ni haos / in my country, my
name / is no more beautiful / than the penny-clink sound of your teeth / my name
is an aberration / is the sweat staining a White Rajah’s shirt / as he tours the
plantation / in the Malayan heat / my rubber-tapper grandmother / looking up
from the herringbone cuts / to dream of black tea and biscuits / my name is the
staccato / of a Molotov cocktail / lobbed by Malay youths / as my Chinese family
cowered / inside their tailoring shop / later swept up the broken glass / used the
shards to etch the details / of that night into the syllables / of my name, the one
I wield / like an icon, the one that wells up / like a Chinese goldfish / in my throat
when asked / where I belong: that spills over / like ink knocked over a sheet / of
silk paper as an old man / puts down his calligraphy brush / and sighs, goes to
wash his hands / pulls out a fresh sheet of paper / to begin again
 
 
 

Lyn Li Che is an MBA student originally from Malaysia. Her work has been published elsewhere in Bayou, Word Riot and so on.