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our theme for issue two is m o o n r o u t e s . geographical and/or historical happenings place / space body as a landscape reincarnations / past lives diaspora / migrations / borderlands / uprooting queering the diaspora displacing biological notions of blood, home, and patrilineal descent movements / moments / motions historical memory / mind pathways home / belonging / origins thoughts on future lives shifting relationships to our identities / our identity journeys!!!! transformations / liminality relationships of the colonized and colonizer within a body/bodies where we want to go / our imagined and desired futures the racialization of space confinement / barriers to movement education and class mobility anticolonial temporalities circular patterns in histories resisting / changing harmful patterns & uncovering life-giving ones migration by moonlight / cycles / nocturnal migrations the mystery of the unknown through the lens of the past and present perpetual foreigner myth





FRUIT ARIA // Eva B. Gubat




ELEVEN SEEDS // Ching-In Chen


YEAR OF THE TIGER (excerpts) // Vikki Law








UNTITLED // Phuong Vuong


CON GAI VIET NAM // Phuong Vuong


SHE, LANDSCAPE // Eva Song Margolis






[UNTITLED] // Tabitha Sin


from CANDIDA: a translation // Elaine Castillo


UNTITLED // Alison Lin




DEAR JASON // Naazneen Diwan


REASONS WHY WRITING FOR MOONROOT FEELS SAD AND STRESSFUL BUT/AND ALSO LIKE A SITE OF POSSIBILITY 1. because i have such reserves of longing for a community/ family and i know that it’s totally unreasonable to expect that anything, including moonroot, could fulfill them, and yet i can’t open the floodgates of my attachment enough to write without all of it coming out at once and overwhelming me, the longing 2. and this fantasy that moonroot will be my mother extends to wanting to write bad, babyish things that will be gazed at with compassionate, mothering eyes 3. because my last writing community told me i could leave when i told the white male editors that i felt weird about how they were using their privilege 4. because editors have so much power over you writing, the effects of which are hard to calibrate 5. so nowadays i mistrust the very structure of editors and submissions, where editors get to constitute an “inside” and an “outside” and decide who gets admitted to the “inside” and claim jurisdiction over what happens on the “inside” and where editors always get to be editors by fiat, privilege, and/or connections 6. i feel like the editor/writer relationship encourages editors to criticize others but does not invite editors to self-reflect or selfcriticize, much less listen to the criticisms of others 7. anyways, me trying to raise the issue of race/gender/privilege resulted in a draining struggle to simply try keeping the space of conversation open, to amass enough legitimacy or threat to be able to have a conversation 8. because i’ve spent the past few hours crying and arguing and the whole time i was just fantasizing about a community that i wouldn’t have to explain so many things to, like when i met juniper. and even though i felt safe talking about sexual abuse with her, i still found my language getting tied up into all these knots, of apologizing for him or for myself, and juniper told me to stop apologizing. “a good way to cut down on apologizing,” she said, “is to add ‘for existing’ every time you say, ‘i’m sorry.’” 4

9. because i haven’t read as much as jackie wang, it feels like, and i’m afraid i’m not queer or cool or asian enough. 10. because i still have tons of unworked-through internalized contempt for stereotypical “asian” behaviors and stereotypical asian girl behaviors in particular 11. almost all of my friends are white. all of the communities i’m in are mostly white. 12. because i’ve developed an instinct, more or less, for how people handle my outsiderness, and when i think about being a part of moonroot it seems like i might not be an outsider and that’s intense and weird. being visibly but inoffensively different is a burden but also a cloak, a cache, a talking point, a badge, a shield, a sometimes-right to say, “there’s a side to this question that you’re not seeing,” a look, an invitation, an attraction-neutralizer, a weapon… it is contradictory what my difference means but sometimes it works to my advantage, though i’m aware how closely this advantage is tied to the patriarchal bargain. * the patriarchal bargain, the way i understand it, is the idea that dominant groups (i.e. white men) get to determine what they value in marginalized groups and get to validate certain members of these groups that perform in pleasing ways. then members of marginalized groups, instead of contesting these valuations, bargain with patriarchy by trying to mold themselves to fit expectations AND compete with each other to try to get the limited amount of validation that’s available. so for example, women try not to be fat and actively hate on fat women because skinny women are valued and protected. the patriarchal bargain is one explanation for why there’s so much in-fighting and contempt, instead of solidarity, among members of marginalized groups. 13. because when i tell people i’m trying to write for this sine “about asian diaspora womyn’s bodies,” i see something in their eyes go blank or into hiding 14. because nobody i know has ever wondered what a group of asian womyn zinesters might desire

debbie hu is spending 2012 in new york, kansas city, and dunedin, new zealand. email me! at or find me at

5 Things I wish I knew earlier: It’s okay to be gay. Regardless of how often people use the word as a synonym for stupid, it’s not. Gay people exist. They’re people just like everyone else. There aren’t just gay and straight people either. There are people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and everything else on the rainbow. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Not all people will be gracious, understanding, and kind. When you are minding your own business and walking down the street holding your girlfriend’s hand, people will stare, ask questions, make faces, and call out rude remarks. When you’re in the park enjoying a beautiful summer day on the grass with your girlfriend, kids will stare, tell you that you’re weird and stupid, and throw things at you until you leave. Even if the world seems so cruel sometimes, there are people with open arms. There are people just like you who have had similar experiences. They survived, and you can too. Be prepared to see some people around you frightened and confused when you push gender boundaries. Your family and friends may ask what you’re doing, who you’re trying to be, and “Why can’t you be the girl you were born as? Why can’t you be yourself?” Sometimes our appearance doesn’t match what we’re feeling inside. Don’t feel bad when you step out of the tiny ♀ box you were born in. It’s incredibly hard to live a life doing things that only girls are told to do. Consent: Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. People may do things you don’t like, even after you’ve made it clear that you’re uncomfortable. That’s not okay. It doesn’t need to be painful, and you don’t need to explain why. If it’s not okay with you, say so. It’s okay to say no. The word queer exists. Sexuality and gender can be fluid. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to be unsure and question. Labels aren’t always needed, but they often come with comfort. They’re helpful tools to some and not to others. It’s okay to choose one or not. For your comfort, or for the comfort of others, they are there, and you don’t need to be specific if you don’t want to. People will pretend to be the identity police, but they can’t hurt you unless you let them. Cindy Tadeo



ruit Aria


hat fruit is kaimito, and that is lanzones, and this is your hand inside a carabao mango asking to be let out. I let your palm out, and the day implodes like pooled sand and silvering wands. Is this, ours, too, fruit of borderlessness? See your flour-white forearms, my cacao-tinged fists, your opal-riddled eyes, my friar-begotten brows, pink irises on your breasts, muddy brown on mine. The airport was the slow song to our crescendo. Others heard the roar of cymbals on your maize-blizzard hair and the dance of tikling beneath my chest and beneath birdsong-skin of my wrists. No longer unwise, no longer an appendage, no longer a counterpart rib to a ma(i)n Rib, you stay inside the seat of flesh of succulent tropical fruits, and each time I finger out a mangosteen crescent or split open a guyabano, you engulf like wheeling mantras of scents. My tongue refuses to take in table food – hunks of beef, sundried grains, fried rice swimming in barako and muscovado. My country loses another of its children sporting bamboo-sheen skin. I traipse into your world of glittering sites and white picket fences, but all you want are sunshine singeing a dragonfly’s belly and jeepneys rolling out like mechanized prized derby. It is only to you my tongue pays her dues, plies her routes on invisible globules and nubs of your flesh. Until. You must fly off and take with you all seasons and bags of seedlings of flowering trees and fruit trees of my country. I am left running wood-dry fingers into my plaited hair. On the morning of your departure, I shriek awake and watch my hands grow talons, my arms fanning out until peacock-dark I rise with bat wings. I pick you up and slam you on a roadside boulder. The day opens brimming with sheen of your homecoming.


va B. Gubat, busy with her Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, writes for magazines and for a television show to pay the bills and writes poetry to breathe. 7




Thursday road a fed twilight every day this starting I listen again the fan dying this blue light an insect body fall A friend says she's used to the orchestra of Mexico City when the breathing stops bodies secure the locks but the black ones half-submerged {I wish you could hold me} in the window sill chattambee 100 thousand stones clusterflies two ravens complaining Everybody wants to be fed. {consecutive kinds of submission} Instead, I went up the hill to traffic. a single verb. to restore on the edge of salish sea the pidgin to pay my mother’s karma everyday to sit with strangers. rainwater in my sandals I filled up the shiny dishwasher. say flesh blue heron I’m coming home could leave tonight, tea leaves in the drain, salt walk the other way in my mouth.

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. A Kundiman and Lambda Fellow, she is part of Macondo, Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and Theatrical Jazz writing communities. She has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston. Currently, Ching-In plays flute with Milwaukee Molotov Marchers as part of union organizing and direct action efforts.

eleven seeds

(Italicized words from Monica Hand, Carol Gomez, Hari Malagayo Alluri, Melissa Morrow, Serena W. Lin, Evangeline Ganaden, Melissa Sipin and Bushra Rehman. With nods to Khadijah Queen & Natasha Marin.) 11

The Year of the Tiger: Last Visits with my Grandmother Vikki Law This past February, my 9-year-old daughter Siu Loong and I traveled to Hong Kong to both see the sights and visit family over Chinese New Year. It was the last time we were to see my grandparents. Below are excerpts of e-mails and journal entries I had written during our trip. 11 February After ten hours in the airport, we are still in NYC. The flight got delayed and delayed and delayed and delayed because of the snow. We spent six of those ten hours on the plane before the airline finally gave up on taking off. Sat, 13 Feb We’re now in Hong Kong. Siu Loong stayed up past 2 am, unpacking and putting things away in the dresser. Where does she get that from? Both her dad and I are content to live out of suitcases and backpacks when we travel! Feb 14 Yesterday, we visited my grandparents in the hospital. My grandmother, still hospitalized after her massive stroke in October, looks at me with confused eyes and I am not sure if she recognizes me. She looks at old photos of me and then at the me standing before her. She looks at photos of Siu Loong as a 2- or 3-year-old and then at the 9-year-old sitting across from her. I think she makes the connection, but am not sure. She had a composition book from the days that she had gone to the British Council for English lessons. I don’t know if she can read what she had written or if it is all meaningless scribble. One entry described her grandparents— one lived to the age of 99, the other until 97. She had written that she missed them still. Before we left, I told her that we would see her tomorrow. “What time?” she asked in a faintly audible voice. Around 2 am, my aunt and uncle took us to the flower market. It’s a tradition 12

to go to the flower market on the eve of Chinese New Year and, even at 2 am, it was packed. We were packed into lines of people that snaked around. I pointed out a man carrying a bundle of branches with tiny red buds on them. “That’s a miniature forest!” Siu Loong exclaimed. Then, we went to Wong Tai Sin, the temple to the god of health and healing. It’s also a tradition to go to that temple on New Year’s. We arrived around 5 am and there were still lots of people, although we missed the snaking queues earlier in the night. The only remnants of them were the metal barricades set up to keep the hordes of worshippers in line. We returned to the house a little before 6 am. We went to bed, waking up three hours later. The two parrots are also awake and making all sorts of noises. Gung hay fat choy! Mon, 15 Feb Yesterday, we visited my grandmother before dinner at my goong-goong’s (grandfather’s) house. (My Goong-Goong was released the day before and, in true Chinese tradition, held Chinese New Year dinner at his house even though he can’t eat solid food) After dinner, my aunt pulled out a box full of family photos, including small square photos, thumbnails almost, of my grandparents when they were young. “Where is this?” I asked my aunt. “Oh, this must have been from when they were traveling through China,” she replied. “A honeymoon?” I asked. No, they hadn’t had a honeymoon. When they were first married, they were poor and lived in the back of their landlords’ kitchen. I hadn’t known that my grandparents had once traveled through China. And now, with my grandmother’s ability to communicate gone, I will never hear any of those stories. Today we visited the Man Mo Temple (the temple to the gods of War and Literature). To get there, we took the Mid-Levels Escalator, a set of escalators that climb the neighborhood’s steep streets. There is even a street called Ladder Street that consists of steps instead of flat concrete and asphalt. In the old days, poor people would stand around at the bottom of Ladder Street and hire themselves out to rich people, carrying them up Ladder Street on

their backs! In the twentieth century, some city planner decided to put in the Mid-Level Escalators, which has become a tourist attraction in and of itself. There are over twenty deities in the Man Mo Temple. Tour buses dropped off tourists from both China and white western countries. Mix them with more worshippers than usual because of the New Year and it was not easy to move around. Siu Loong lit incense offerings to all of the deities and I to most of them. While trying to avoid getting burned by other worshippers’ incense, I overlooked one (Dei Ju, the Earth God) whose altar is below Man and Mo’s altar. Towards the end of our visit, my eyes stung from the incense smoke, but at least neither of us got hurt. At 3 in the morning on the night of Chinese New Year Eve, someone got poked in the eye by burning incense at the Wong Tai Sin temple because that was how crowded it was. Grandma was already in bed when we visited, but the nurse dressed her and put her in her chair. At first, Grandma ignored us, flipping through her books and magazines. We showed her pictures and named the people in them. After learning who was who, Siu Loong took over, speaking loudly and with quite a bit of gusto. (There is, for some reason, a photo of the small glass table with a blue vase in the living room. “Your table!” Siu Loong proclaimed loudly before dissolving into giggles.) We left the hospital around 6:30 pm. 15 Feb We arrived this evening at the hospital where Grandma’s nighttime nurse was VERY enthusiastic about Siu Loong and very chatty (except in Cantonese, so I wasn’t able to follow more than a few words at a time). She even took a picture of herself with Siu Loong! Later, my cousin told me that she is from mainland China, which explains why she is so fascinated by Siu Loong, who is half Chinese and half White. 19 February Tonight, my grandmother looked as if she did recognize me. Her eyes followed me and Siu Loong the whole time. She did not look away distractedly at anything else, except the few times when the nurse interrupted us to talk to her. (Grandma, do you remember Goong-Goong? she interjected loudly as we looked at a photo album together.) Grandma kept eye contact with us. When I showed her a photo of my Goong-Goong, she nodded. She whispered something twice, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying. 14

Monday, 22 February We went to see Goong-Goong and Auntie yesterday evening before going to the hospital. We stayed until almost 10 pm because Auntie talks a lot. Grandma was sleeping when we got to the hospital, but the nurse woke her. Siu Loong began her routine of pointing people out in pictures. The nurse interrupted us repeatedly to offer us New Year’s snacks. Later, Siu Loong said that, because of these interruptions, she wasn’t naming people in the pictures and, without the distraction, Grandma fell back asleep. Grandma did wake when we said good-bye. 24 Feb (Wednesday) This afternoon, we visited Grandma in the hospital. She had apparently fallen asleep while watching a movie, but the nurse woke her up. She was the most alert and responsive that I’d seen her. Siu Loong and I had bought her a picture book of household items, which she flipped through several times. She even whispered the word “cooker” during one go-round. When I told her that we would be leaving tomorrow, she started. In the notebook that people use to write messages to her, I wrote, “We will be going to New York tomorrow.” Siu Loong drew three people, labeling them “Habu (Grandmother in Shanghainese), Siu Loong and Victoria.” When I showed the picture to her, she looked happy, maybe assuming that she was going too. I hated to disillusion her, but even if her short-term memory was shot and she would remember nothing the next day, I couldn’t pretend that we would be taking her with us. I told her we’d visit when we returned to Hong Kong. “When?” she asked. On June 30th, my grandmother died in the hospital. Had she lived another month, this woman, who had lived through World War 2, the Communist takeover of China in 1949 and of Hong Kong in 1997 and who taught me to knit when I was 8, would have turned 93. My Goong-Goong died on July 25 at the age of 96.



Ze naChuaHa r dti saha pac y c l o neo fr a g ewi t hat e nde rf a ng i r lhe a r t . 17

The First Namesake 1 Drawn into chaos, I am suctioned out from the darkness and thrown through cold glass doors that shatter into a million pieces, voices whisper my creation story— You fell from the sky before your time, a ball of sadness that did not grow into any particular form, just an unwanted lump of clay. That is how you came to be. 2 Omma tiptoes from the police station with tight leaking breasts, slowly picking up her pace before the ajuma’s hit her for crying and holding her ears as the officer declares the new name of her daughter: Kim, surname Hei, wisdom Kyong, respect No longer hers, I accept the name, my lips rutting in hunger— in search of mother and her sticky sweet colostrum. I grieve when cotton uniform replaces her soft flesh, and the smell of salt and sweat of July’s heat disappoints me into silence, withdrawal, the eventual relinquishment of who I was born to be. 3

Hei Kyong, the Marys and Sarahs of Korea, I was told; nothing special, has no meaning beyond a conveyer belt object in need of a name. What is a product if you can’t identify it?

4 Kim Hye Kyong to Hei Kyong Kim to Hi Kee-young Kim, American tongues massacre pronunciations; there is no translation for a massacred language, nor should there be—anything other than native tongue pollutes the language the air. But then again, I have no tongue. Born in South Korea and transplanted in Minnesota as an infant, Hei Kyong Kim’s creative work focuses on identity, transnational/transracial adoption, motherhood, and Jungian psychology. 18

ALL JOY LIVES INSIDE VIOLENCE By Jackie Wang Routes. The pain of forced (im)migration vs. the ecstatic freedom of mobility, of bodies in motion. My father, on the boat to Taiwan, 5 years old. Civil War. Exiled from the mainland, from his extended family. Father’s family land on land already dispossessed, already taken from the indigenous Taiwanese. Not long ago, Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule. So father and his 2 siblings grow up in a Japanese-style house. Father’s mother dies in Taiwan of cancer, asks father to come to grave with stories. Father goes to America, leaving his mother’s dead body behind. Father’s sister becomes a reckless nihilist—her mother was her only link to the world and now she is gone. Picture of father and his sister in the airport. He is leaving. The Cold War was raging and his test scores attracted the American universities. Scientists were in demand. Did father dream of NASA? Of space? When father arrives the situation has changed—there are too many Chinese people and he will no longer be able to get residency status through being a student. Father drops out and moves to New York City to open up a convenient store with other Chinese immigrants. The rest of his immediate family eventually come to the US, leaving the mother’s remains behind. Once again, the family lands on land that has been dispossessed, hundreds of years ago. Father never looked back though his sister swears he would have had a better life had he stayed in Taiwan. I think of the complicated forces at play that have shaped the trajectory of his life, how he got My dad and his sister, in an airport, right here, how he met my Sicilian-New before he left for the United States Yorker mother, how she got here, 19

the story of her family: how her grandfather owned a fruit stand in New York, how it went out of business when a gigantic grocery store opened down the street, how he lost everything during the Great Depression, and died young, of a stroke. It would be easy to speak of the pain of uprooting and the migratory paths determined by the forces of global capitalism without trying to understand that many Asians comes to the US in search of a better life. Of my siblings, I am the only one who has spent time outside of the country. Compared to many of my hyper-educated friends I am not cosmopolitan but compared to my older brother, who is prison, I am very cosmopolitan. Before leaving for New Mexico I receive a letter from my brother. He is in solitary confinement. In the hole he talks to himself, writes that he is thinking of the good old days, when we were a family, when he was free. But he is okay—better than the others in confinement, who sometimes go crazy and cut themselves. He is okay but there is no heat and sometimes it is so cold he has to sleep with his shoes on. But he is okay. I read my brother’s letter while in Santa Fe, surrounded by poets and artists and thinkers, in an enchanting house tucked away in the mountains. We sing songs, gather around the fire, talk politics, go on walks, take drugs. So fucking bohemian, I think. Sitting in the loft looking out at the landscape, letter in hand—my mobility collides with the harsh reality of my brother’s captivity, and the captivity of those like him. Suddenly my bullshit bohemian poet-lifestyle is a joke and I am confronted with the contradiction of my position: the wideness of the desert, the sunset over the majestic hills, the flame-shaped shrubs, the people, the beauty—all require violence to exist. All joy lives inside violence. In every letter my brother asks me about the “outside.” What is China like? Can you take a picture of the Baltimore skyline for me? Have you seen our cousins lately? How much is your rent? It is crushing to hear him say, I hope to go there one day, knowing he is sentenced to life without parole. It’s crushing to hear him talk about how he wants to go to college when he will never be able to, not even in prison, because work, education, and trade programs are only available to people with shorter sentences. It is crushing to think about how the legal motion discussing the 35 of the over 50 flaws and gross illegalities of his case sat on some bureaucrats desk, without being read, for years. I write to him about Tupac’s hologram, how strange it is to watch a video of the hologram, 20

how it made me think of how we would listen to the album Me Against the World over and over when we were children. What is the meaning of mobility to him, as a prisoner, or my father, as an immigrant, or my little brother, who calls just to tell me about his dreams, how he would one day like to see the world. On the phone he says, I want to live like you do. What is the meaning of mobility to my mother, a former housewife? Now that her children have all grown up she knows not what to do with herself except speak of wanting to die or travel. I don’t believe in God anymore, she says over the phone. But I believe in my puppies. It is tempting to speak only of my identity as a queer woman of color as though my hands were clean, to speak of being oppressed and not the gruesome underside of my location, what it means to be a person living on stolen land, in a country built on slavery and genocide. I write: it is unethical for me to smell New Mexico. It is unethical for me to be “free” when my relative freedom as a non-incarcerated person is only possibly through the removal, imprisonment, and degradation of certain bodies, bodies marked as threatening or worthless. I am not saying that I or you, the reader, should feel bad about your life or falling in love or going on road trips or hanging out with poets and petting cool dogs, but that we should try to understand the hidden brutality our lives depends on, even though we didn’t consciously chosen it to be this way. Though I cannot live outside of this violence, it is necessary that I live. Live inside it but also: against it. She stands before the mountain, feeling broken and humbled. The immensity of it. She knows nothing of the violent underside of her fleeting rapture. Perhaps her joy obviates it. She is: a person who sometimes eats bananas, wears clothes, writes, and wanders. All of these activities implicate her. On some days she is formless. She becomes: a red napkin caught in the branches of a tree, briefly, before deliverance. A red napkin unmoored by the wind. Adrift. A lightness that lives inside violence. *** Jackie Wang is a writer, critic, and multimedia artist. She is a recent Kundiman fellow and member of the Moonroot Collective. In her poetry she is trying to map a queer, anti-colonial, weird-girl poetics of the body. Find her at or email 21









there is a photo of you with us. sitting on a set of gritty cement outdoors apartment stairs. between your legs sat my brother, cousin, and i. the sun shone bright and you were smiling a genuine smile i cannot recall from my adult years. you smiled from ear to ear so wide your mouth could not contain its happiness. in the photo, your arms are brown, taut, strong like i have never remembered. no matter what they say- you are a brown man. your life shaped by war poverty life without a father. they never asked you these things. they could never imagine. i knew it too well but this image allowed me to forget. i cried when i first found this photo- unable to imagine you and your life before the accident, before this country. before headaches and insomniac nights would lead you to become bitter. before you started screaming so easily and i could no longer recall that smile, from ear to ear. we took that photo at our first house here. i can almost picture ituncle excitedly grabbing a camera to document our new life. elated that camera and film could be bought at a corner store. that first place was where little brother was conceived, where we walked on treeless streets to school past drug addicts littered on sidewalks. where liquor stores and post-80s poverty scarred our neighbors. that first place was where i hid in closets- nervous. i taped numbers i cut out of calendars. sitting on our immigrant tin chest of clothing, i mantled these paper squares to the wall of our closet. daily and diligently, i would arrange the numbers to match the date. i was four and even then i hated not knowing. that first house where i began to learn this language i write in today. that first house was the beginning of my memories. our beginning in this country. Phuong is a Vietnamese American sista trying to find her words-and thus her way--in the world. 22


She, Landscape Sex it’s the closest two people can be the mother says sobbing at the kitchen table because someone so young couldn’t understand. But she never spoke of scorched skin in a missionary desert, the howling stain that ached through freshman year and offerings of springrolls and sweet sticky rice fattened the most painful of charadesShe, comfortable and blooming innumerable swelling knots speaks of love with eyes that do not close. One lesson learned in a rushed breath ensured all others following to push a mass of questions deeper into emptiness, like planting seeds over oceans with no intention to grow. On some nights a lover weeps from the tenderness simple motions she could not enact to feed herself. (So sabotage is the likely outcome, unable to resolve the jealousy.) On others, she flies across living rooms, stairwells feeling no singe. And in a dream what burned most were the words that were left out those used sparingly and with great caution. Silence, when used as a weapon does protect but when used to protect, can make anorexic drowning the would-be speaker into her stars. She, hoarder of words measures syllables and sentences so as not to run out cutting short any pathways to vulnerability and beautiful possibilities. In defiance, learning to speak is an act of love, or breathing deeply sewing without fear of finger prick or recreating patterns like holding her own hand and aching with such a companion. -Eva Song Margolis, 2012


Growing’s Trade Off Since I have started using male pronouns, I have come to miss the communities of “she”. I never knew that’s what the trade off was In coming closer to a me that better fit me. Eyes cocked, my foremothers question me, as if they lost a daughter in a black ominous sea, where Mami Wata wasn’t reigning and demonic darkness, as if by hypnosis, beckoned me. I try to tell my foremothers that I am more a mermaid now than I ever thought I could be. When I was younger, I was powerful. Hair shorn, Velcro-bound blue boy sneaks, and a thin layer of dust stuck to my skin with sweat. I played any sport that ended with ‘ball’. A little me who was learning misogynist ways by my uncles and the t.v. A little me who was learning immigrant macho. A little me who was learning how a patriarch should act. A little me who desired the love from a she. In 4th grade my breasts began to grow. I wasn’t ready for the changes. I feared my future with confusion. th In 5 , they were already suspecting. So in 6th, I planned my transition. A girl I was to become, even if it killed me. Throughout, I always mourned that I never got to be, who I wanted to be. But there’s another part of that trade-off… As I soon learned what it was to be a woman of color I learned of oppression and more importantly, knowledge, power and divinity. This boy learned how to be a strong woman. 25

I read feminist poetry, I grew up in the hands of my ULOAH mothers - Ta’Shia Ashanti, Aunties – Anibel Ferus Comelo, Sharon Brigforth, Communists – Michael Slate I grew up with my peers and was considered as part of a Mujeres de Maiz I was cousin to my Pinay island sisters. I was rich with community. One that surpassed its weight in gold. And when I left to NY, I missed these sisters, who accepted me boi because that camaraderie took years to cultivate in rich Cali soil, and I had no strength to force another way in a brick city where folks manage life by keeping stone faces to get to the next day. And now, today, 2 years after top surgery, 8 years after dabbling with he, And 5 after making it mandatory I am lost. No Womyn’s community wants me anymore. And no community wants to hear how this feminist has become moreso only after calling himself not man, not transman, but transgender. And I am yelling into black holes and gates protesting my incarceration, begging a closer look inside… Isn’t this what you have all revered? That beautiful balance of male, female and spirit? And those who don’t know, because they don’t look at my chest those same who don’t hear any changes in my voice because hormones haven’t hit my horizon yet, Those folks ask me to come perform at a Womyn’s fest And so I tell them about my changes, but plead with them to see how nothing has changed except a word, that I still look and sound the same And I am tip-toed around, rejected again… 26

The history of critical feminist theory has been one about challenging gender norms, inclusivity, breaking borders, revising conventional notions of gender. Critical feminist theory has spoken to the fluidity of gender, the danger of assigning particular social roles and destinies to those born with body parts labeled as female- because gender is a social construct. I was born female, I have experienced life through a woman’s body; through a masculine-identified female body. I know what it is to challenge the idea that biology does not equal destiny. I have a vagina, I have not taken male hormones, I don’t identify as woman or as man. I identify as transgender and given the limits of language, I have chosen to use male pronouns. However, irrespective of male or female pronouns, I’d still identify as transgender. My decision to use “he” challenges conventional gender norms. My decision to use “he” is rooted in my embodied feminism. Who is the gate keeper? Because I want back in. -D’Lo 2012

(Text in Italics was created by Anjali Alimchandani is helping me address these re-occurring situations in more academic language in attempts to be better heard.)

D’Lo is a queer Tamil Sri L.A.nkan-American, political theatre artist/ writer, director, comedian and music producer.






from CANDIDA: a translation. E C laine


I. “Never does one open the discussion by coming right to the heart of the matter. For the heart of the matter is always somewhere else than where it is supposed to be. To allow it to emerge, people approach it indirectly by postponing until it matures, by letting it come when it is ready to come. There is no catching, no pushing, no directing, no breaking through, no need for a linear progression which gives the comforting illusion that one knows where one goes.” (Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other.) When I was working on this book of poems and subversive translations of Voltaire’s Candide , late into it I realized I didn’t know if it wanted to be a book at all. If it could really live as a book. Or if it was just oil I had to squeeze from myself, like an olive or a seed. An attar, or an otto, or an absolute. When I first wrote the thing I was very sick, and very angry. I am still both, but now I can sometimes digest a pear, a chickpea; my skin is now more skin than sore. But back then, I still had to be bled, had to be pressed, had to be anointed. I think maybe I made a perfume instead of a book. Profumo. Through the smoke. It’s not that I lost faith in book. But then again I’m not sure it was faith that I had at all, or just very concentrated—an otto of— rage. About: being a sick brown woman in 21st century America and Europe, immunosuppression and colonialism and capitalism, why Filipinos get eczema, why inflammatory diseases are a libidinal form of rejection and revolt (what is revolting, revolts; what inflames a body and what is inflamed by it; forms of arson and immolation), baby formula, soda, canned meat, and migratory flows, the slave blood in sugar, the skin as an anus, what empire shits through its skin, leaky gut and holes in the system, steroid drugs and performance, shutting the symptomatic body up to make it compliant, the colonial physician, the sickness of the overseas Filipina nurse and her family, how affective labor affects the laborer, where do the caretakers go for their care, the condition of a body in history, how history conditions a body. Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism: “We have shown that the doctor always appears as a link in the colonialist network, as a spokesman for the occupying power. We shall see that this ambivalence of the patient before medical technique is to be found even when the doctor belongs to the dominated people. There is a manifest ambivalence of the 32

colonized group with respect to any member who acquires a technique or the manners of the conqueror… for many of the colonized, the native-doctor is compared to the native police, to the caïd, to the notable… The native’s doctor’s behavior with respect to the traditional medicine of his country is for a long time characterized by a considerable aggressiveness. The native doctor feels himself psychologically compelled to demonstrate firmly his new admission to a rational universe. This accounts for the abrupt way in which he rejects the magic practices of his people… The colonized patient is the first to set the tone. Once the superiority of Western technique over traditional methods of treatment is recognized, it is thought preferable to turn to the colonizers who are, after all, ‘the true possessors of the technique.’” Did medicine become weaponized when it was divested from its magical (radical) context? Became science, became the State? A child of both a Westernized surgeon and nurse, but a granddaughter of witches and albularyos, I resist the clinic. My parents ultimately never decolonized their knowledge. Ignored the etiology of disease being a story about violent encounter, domination, exploitation, and suppression. Until the age of five years old, I was never fed on anything other than canned formula. No other significant form of nourishment. I became not just dependent but addicted to the formula, and towards the end of the five years, refused to eat anything else. (Consequence: melodramatic episode of self-starvation when parents try to wean me off, long hospital stays, fed intravenously, finally taste Hershey’s chocolate milk for the first time in hospital; doctors are pleased, send me home, you go from one industrial food product to another.) Nestlé heavily promoted and distributed their formulas to poor mothers in “less economically developed countries,” such as the Philippines, discrediting breast milk as less nutritionally complete: “IBFAN claim that Nestlé distributes free formula samples to hospitals and maternity wards; after leaving the hospital, the formula is no longer free, but because the supplementation has interfered with lactation, the family must continue to buy the formula. IBFAN also allege that Nestlé uses ‘humanitarian aid’ to create markets, does not label its products in a language appropriate to the countries where they are sold, and offers gifts and sponsorship to influence health workers to promote its products. Nestlé denies these allegations.” Although I was born in the States in the 80s, after an international boycott against Nestlé had already been organized, my mother would have grown up, would have become a young nurse, still hearing that campaign in her ear. She would have been taught to believe that she was giving the best, most scientifically sound, option to her child. And 33

so my origins are synthetic (colonial). Are vanillin-flavored. I kept getting sick, and so I kept receiving medicine. Today I remain scarce in antibodies. Why was my body deprived so early on of the means to protect itself, to fight, to resist? What colonial imperialism began, neoliberalism continues. Henry Kissinger said, whoever controls food, controls people. Exterminated bison, colonial food distribution programs, and syphilis-woven blankets the swaddling clothes of America. Allopathy’s comprehension of healing as: CUT-POISON-BURNSUPPRESS-RENAME. (Control strategies, see also: colonialism, imperialism, global capitalism, gentrification. What you do to the body, you do to the land. Strip it of its natural resources. Fanon: “Moreover, in centers of colonization the doctor is nearly always a landowner as well.”) But I don’t want the operation. I want a second opinion. One from someone I love, who loves me. Someone I trust with my life. Loving, trusting people with one’s life—that also is a kind of medicine. The poems were always meant to be attars: poems like pulverizing and concentration and fermentation. A holistic, or homeopathic, work. Where the ingredients of pain, remixed, can be the ingredients of a cure. A thing to be taken, daily or only on special occasions, taken and dabbed on the neck, behind the ears, on the wrist, behind the knee, on the chest. On the pulse points. Or: taken in the morning, before all other sustenance. Or in the evening before bed, after all has been sustained. In one steady gulp, or in wary, thoughtful sips. A tincture. An oil. A spirit. To unblock the pathways to the heart. After which I would like to say: Trust me, I am not a doctor. Some days it’s intolerable, this gradual building of a tolerance. To be constantly inflamed sometimes feels like the only bearable ethical life. But radical survival needs radical healing. So I boil and ferment and steep. I write the poem. I am still alive. II. No more calls to shed or afflict my human frame For what is divine (humane) in life to once again be most disastered For the transmission of the vital To remain sabotaged What I require The holy plant that keeps my calcium from dissolving What I don’t need Another dead brown girl to keep the movie interesting Another paean to European handiwork You can put a MADE IN ITALY label on the bag Even when all of its joins are licked by prisoners The prisoners must have a womanly demeanor I for example have a womanly demeanor Or I did Until the staph set in and pulped a kraut of me 34

III. A thing like lace but not lace Where what is important is not the handiwork but the holes A thing like skin but not skin Where what is important is not the cuticle but the pores No enslavement in the porcelain cameo of sympathy Make a jagged path of my blood From the banlieue to the town square What on heaven and earth can be saved When hellish architecture demands hellish tribute Can’t can’t can’t stand a beautiful city And if one more Tuscan talks to me about Craftsmanship (Behind Prada, Prato) I vow to cut IV. What does not pretend at hygiene When hygiene is not the solution What puts the boil forth in the first place To both demonstrate and free What the boil has managed to contain What eats the bitter herb When the bitter herb begs eating What pronounces to the world ALLERGEN What insists upon integrity Even (especially) when the wholeness is necessarily monstrous Patched-together from leftovers And improvisational What are the unforeseen damages of damage What is gifted in reprisals What still recalls the chant to summon the many figures of wrath, or Love What arguments can be eased from my flesh To be transubstantiated into unguents What insists upon transmission Moving from one To the other 35



When One Follows Her Visions.... I love to wash dishes because it allows my mind to wander and process. Today, I came back to the hotel and hand washed all of my clothes from the last 3 days of being in Phnom Penh. I washed to keep myself from crying, I washed to keep myself from the rage; from throwing everything inside of my hotel room because it was all I have ever known to do to keep from crying. Today, I met the survivors of human trafficking and after having gone through recovery, education, and reintegration have chosen to join Voices for Change initiative to help the Survivor Services program area by speaking to new victims brought to the centers. They greeted each of us in a Cambodian greeting (Sampeah) by placing their palms together in a prayer-like way, bowing their heads slightly and saying, “Chum Reap Suor” followed by hugs. They introduced themselves, one by one, and one girl volunteered to tell us her story. She spoke in Khmer with a translator by her side. Her voice was soft when she began her story about being raped by her father at a very young age. She tried telling her mother but her mother did not believe her. It was then, that the tears welled up in her eyes and I understood why. I knew why the tears came at that moment. I was there once myself. It hurts to be violated and it hurts even more when the person you trust the most to protect you and to defend you doesn’t believe you. I tried to stop my own tears from flowing but couldn’t. How could I? I’ve stopped them many times before in hopes I can heal, in hopes that I can one day forget and stop asking myself, “What did I do to allow for this to happen to me?” “Should I have been more careful of how I dressed?” “Should I have….?” Because the reality of it is, especially in the Cambodian culture, one of the first questions is, “What did YOU do to allow this or encourage this?” And for a long time this was all I could ask myself. This question diverted my emotions from the fact that I WAS sexually molested by this bastard I once called my uncle and I didn’t do anything to deserve or allow for it to happen to me. He doesn’t get to take away my sense of self I have or the confidence or how I look at myself. He gets NOTHING from me. Not anymore. It’s spineless people like him who takes without asking. It is sick people like him who lack everything I AM. My mind started to shut down because her story scorched me deep into my soul. I didn’t cry for me or for what has happened to me. I cried for the simple fact that WE FOUGHT BACK. We didn’t remain silent. We didn’t allow for it to immobilize who we are; what we are. We are STRONG, PASSIONATE, POWERFUL women. It was tears of happiness and of knowing I’ve found exactly what I have been searching for; inner peace from what 38

happened to me and being able to talk about it without feeling that rage and shame. I told the girls what had happened to me and in the middle of my story they swarmed me with hugs and a sense of relief….relief that I was Khmer and that they can share their story, feelings without being labeled as what many Cambodians like to label, “Srey Sompung” (Prostitute) or “Srey Korch” (Meaning she is no longer any good). We’re not the ones who should have ever walked with shame. We didn’t do anything to deserve or allow these things to happen to us. We didn’t ask for it to happen to us. It happened and it was NOT our fault! I hugged and held them, I knew for the first time in my entire 22 years of living with the shame and the rage that I had found my inner peace. I’ve never ever, ever, stood up and told a group of people my story and today I stood amongst women and girls who are now my family and just like any family, we’ll fight together for change. Hindsight: It is amazing that each step I have taken since I could remember has led to this…I was just reading my artistic vision that I have stuck with for years now. My artistic vision is to stop the silent sufferings of women and children within the South East Asian community, who have experienced sexual abuse, molestation, and rape, by utilizing art as a way to help find their voices to tell their stories and begin the process of Artwork titled: Mirror 2 My Insecurities healing and self-love. by Phira Rehm Phira Rehm is a visual artist bridging the communication gap between the elders and youths in the Southeast Asian communities by utilizing her artwork to create dialogues that society tends to hide under rugs or behind masks.


Dear Jason, My mom’s been present these past 9 months. My/her delicate frame the portal to 40 years back when they let her go. They see her in me as if I’ve frozen time with my reappearance; they sit me down and ask me about my life all the while wondering if my mom’s secrets have traveled the distance with me. But my mom has never told me anything about herself. I was hoping her surprise visit would change the silent reservation of our talks but I only saw her retreat further. All I know are vagaries that every woman in my family, of every age and of every relation, passes around like known folktales, the details of which are never pronounced in their full harsh, truths. It was the after dusk darkness that descends without warning when my Masi and I were taking a rick home. Slowly sitting back, letting the night blur and hide and disorient and taking no responsibility to distinguish, I felt my body loosen. This memory has no sound, at least no sound beyond the universe of our rickshaw, which just increases the mysterious drowsiness of our surroundings and my preservation of them. Potholes rattling the axels, sending the three wheels fumbling to realign and balance, jolting our limbs as we slide off of plastic patterned seats and into reminiscing about a life I didn’t witness. My Masi started with a familiar line, “Your mom has had a difficult life.” This statement, that would cause many to tilt their heads in agreement and sympathy when repeating, could be filled with the meaning of her post-India experience as our immigrant mother, but of what before that. What insight did this estranged family have to speak with so much authority? Could my mom have revealed in those blue chittees going back, one paper both envelope and what it carries, the shame of crumpling under the threat of a butter knife in front of a defiant daughter or of the repeated, pounding question, “Why did you marry him?” piercing her choices with her daughter’s added regrets. No, there was no limit to how deep she could bury to ensure she’d suffer alone. So, as I nodded aware, I wondered what she could be aware of and how it built onto the tragic reality migration had precipitated. “Your Nanasahib’s spirit left with your mom when she went to America. His worrying knew no end because he knew her so well. How much she could endure without speaking, without 40

opening up a word to anyone for comfort. So as years went by, we wondered what she wasn’t telling us. Knowing that we were too far away for her to take a break from the ravages of fate.” “She resigned herself early on to that word: naseeb, fate. She silently accepted what was expected of her without complaint after her mom passed away when she was 7. And when she got married, even under your Nanasahib’s urging, she wouldn’t abandon this naseeb when he said it was time to walk away.” I was struck by these words. What did this mean? Things were so bad so early on in their marriage that her own father welcomed her back home without stigma? What was this foreshadowing indication of the degradation to come? And why did she stay? The question that I mercilessly demanded a response to, targeting her when she was swollen, eyes and cheeks tender to the touch and already retaining so much shame for what she couldn’t say to defend herself. So instead she defended him. And I intensely resented her loyalty. And everything she was that I had the potential of becoming. I remember watching her put on bangles as a child and seeing how pliable her wrists were, how much they bent and twisted and easily disfigured their shape for the unforgiving gold handcuffs. I think all her bones were like this. Just like cartilage. And although I always criticized her malleability, it never once occurred to me that she was just as resilient. I turned to look at my Masi. And in the shadows that made everything softer, I confessed. How I blamed her for being weak, for being silent, and grew a gulf between us. And in these gradual disassociations, was complicit in the crime against her that made her feel as if her naseeb was her burden alone. That tore away any bolsters of self-realization and self worth that held her standing, after dislocation, relocation, severed limbs and painful prosthetics. Maybe she never told me anything, because I was never listening. I let the tears melt my pretenses of feminism and mingle with my Masi’s, both of us just as estranged fromthe all too familiar features of my face. Naazneen Diwan is a writer and community scholar-activist and organizer in Los Angeles where she works on issues of Islamophobia, gendered violence and immigrant rights. 41


is an ongoing collective project about race, gender, and bodies. It is an evolving experiment in deep, loving community-building among self-identified womyn, trans*, and/or genderqueer persons of Asian descent (whether East Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian, Central Asian, West Asian, hapa or mixed) living in diaspora, across borders and geographies. We believe that because our multiple and intersecting identities often render us invisible and misrepresented (even within our own communities), reclaiming our voices is a radical act of love and recognition.

MOONROOT is a physical object, but most importantly, it is a community. We are building a visible, beautiful, and organic family. Miyuki Baker | Amira Caluya | Amy Dewan | mai đoàn | Sine Hwang Jensen | Claudia Leung | Marilla Li | Jess Kealiihoalani Toshea Mease | linda nguyễn | Jackie Wang | monna wong

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