Words by Valerie Wu
THIS LAND OF COLOR OF MINE
From sea to shining sea / the flag stretches. I am confined / within the borders of my continent / & still invisible. / There is no more Manifest Destiny. There is nowhere / to go. I am wondering / about the country I have to cross / the country that I have crossed / the country that I will cross. / Several different tenses of being / am I is or was? / My inheritance comes from the travels already passed. Foreigners / searching for gold in the West / gold slipping through their fingers / the pan is never at the right angle. My father yells / tells me that this is his dream, dream, dream / his migration pattern has always / defined him. But not me & never me. Indivisible / not invisible. / The sun blazes down on the backs of laborers. / The sun is yellow, the color of their skin / but the metal is gray & nothing is ever black & white. / Purple mountains / majesty. Brotherhood (and sisterhood.) / The Statue of Liberty holds up her torch. Justice / & freedom. Opportunity is / gold flecks in the water. / Completed in 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad / connected each coast of the United States to the other. / The railroad, a hyphen. / It was / described as the main artery of America. So much depends on / the heart, pumping blood. / Even more depends on the blood / flowing away. / I wonder about the connection / between people and places and nations / and wish that I was connected too. / I speak, but my voice is unheard. / The veins, carrying blood back. / America, asking: what color do you bleed? / What color do you bleed?
This country burns / like fire and / smells / like ashes. Do the children cry / when the
bombs come? If / the numbers mean / people, rising / & falling. If the time spent at home / is worth more than the time / without one. The bombs / are the only things / that don’t discriminate. The heroes charge / but there are only so many / you can save / when the city never sleeps. Walk a mile / in their shoes. From your safe space / your safe place / it won’t exist anymore. The bonds between family run thick / but spilt blood runs thicker. / Cover your mouth / the air is poison / & smells like death. Take his hand / in yours. Feel the veins running through his wrist / they are like yours. / they are like you. / One day he will / wash up / broken & alone & a symbol of a lost narrative. Until then / he says that was my home. That was my home. / I know. / There is crying / a sound that I have become familiar with / but will never be able to hear again. / What is it? / A story, lost. / I will tell it. / You say / maybe it is not my place / my right / to tell their story. My origins do not lie / at that coordinate. I come from several units over / to be a witness. But / there are only so many you can save & it is not my place. My story. / But then again / maybe it is.
Valerie Wu is a student at Presentation High School in San Jose, California. Her writing thrives at the intersection of ethnicity, migration, and human rights, and can be found in Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution, The Huffington Post, and TRACK//FOUR, a literary journal for people of color. She is an International Goodwill Ambassador at Postcards for Peace UK, and is currently working on an online writing project called The Diversity Coalition, a literary platform meant to showcase the narratives of those marginalized within their communities. Find her on Twitter @valerie_wu.
Images + Video from William Pope.L’s 2015 exhibition “Trinket” at the Geffen Contemporary.