growing up i remember learning the names
of relatives
like the ways we are taught to identify
constellations in the night sky: 
always looking from a
trying to determine lines and
shapes to recall should we be
so fortunate enough to meet in person
one day

i come from
a family of shitty digital photographs
of old people not smiling — with hearts
made out of thousands of phone cords
hugging tightly – attached to
emails from across the ocean inundated
with so many prayers and blessings that
sometimes i think i could break
all the rules and still be okay
(cause grandma’s got me covered
for life)

you see this is what it means to be
of diaspora:
to embrace half of your family as low quality photos
of wrinkles and frowns
is to become
intimately familiar with the dust of
a family album, the static of a phone
receiver, the stories of a time and
country always on the other side
of your palm
where the brownest
parts of you reside

so family is never really about the kiss,
the hug, the touch. it is more of a feeling
that we learn how to carry deep inside our chests
it is
more of a type of connection that no
border can swallow
it is about hearing the news across the receiver
that one of those stars thousands of miles away flickered out
and maybe you only saw it once or twice but
you are still weeping because
you remember the aluminum of a voice
remember the grayest of eyes
remember that scowl and how deeply and defiantly it loved you
amidst it all

but to be of the diaspora
means that
you are growing accustomed to
this perpetual feeling of loss
how much sense it makes to experience it in this country where they have tried their best to rid you of your ancestors (so they can
call you their own) and all of the other ways of being before the smile they forced on your face that moment they took your photo after granting you a college degree and stealing your native tongue
after giving you a pay raise and sending a bomb across the ocean
after reminding you american and reminding ‘them’ terrorist

you see this is what it means to be
of diaspora: to not be able to isolate
the grief of one passing from another
sort of passage, to become so familiar
of losing that we become comfortable with
mispronouncing our names and our faces
with features that were
never meant for us
to not have the language to explain
our relatives that we were already lonely before they left us

so maybe i am terrified of my own smile because it reveals the vastness of an ocean
and just how much we are capable of losing
and how much we have already

support the author