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To the inbetweeners

Given a mask of a first name,
for slanted eyes cannot be straightened and
dirt brown skin cannot be scrubbed bone deep.
But with hopes it would let you blend,
assimilate; like the melting pot
submerged in since birth.

Last name repeatedly pronounced.
One of the only remnants,
an heirloom, you can call your own.
The only history your tongue
has not lost; it can grasp
its vowels and consonants;
without the need to perform contortions.

Chained to your self-worth, it reminds
of weight carried across oceans,
of the toil that it took to get you here,
that you are not worthy of its history
letting it sink in the depths.

Torn between two worlds,
one will say you are too much
of this new land.
The soil of the old country
have all but been brushed
off your roots,
branches trimmed and carved
with western excess
making way for richer spoils.

And from the air that
escapes your throat,
you sound too far gone.
Vocal chords hoarse,
and a bastardised tongue,
coarse and tinged; with
trying to fit in,
singing of a generation that has
never known loss,
thankless in tune.

But loss does not stop with the end of war.
Loss leaves a legacy for its grandchildren,
making sure you are gifted
high expectations from your parents.
That the fear of falling from heights
keeps you on your toes;
to try claim back a slither of what had been taken.

Residual doubt
festers under the minds
of diaspora;
feeding on the loss
of language, culture,
a sense of place, thinking
you could belong.

The other will take joy in
you being able to sing their tune.
But they stumble,
when you won’t recite
their revised story,
no longer a model minority.

They will not put in the effort
to wrap their tongue
around your lineage.
That you will be called ungrateful for not accepting scraps.
That you do not burn under this southern sun,
only as Aussie as the paper your
birth certificate was printed on.

That you will never be quite enough.

Other’d by two worlds.
Is this what is meant
when people say that the
is more peaceful
than the struggle?

Go to Kevin Ngo's profile to read more poems

Poem Audio

  • Kevin Ngo reads 'Inbetweeners'